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    Chapter 1

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    Chapter 1

    When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I
    lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house
    which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord,
    Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only.
    I lived there two years and two months. At present I am a sojourner
    in civilized life again.
    I should not obtrude my affairs so much on the notice of my
    readers if very particular inquiries had not been made by my
    townsmen concerning my mode of life, which some would call
    impertinent, though they do not appear to me at all impertinent,
    but, considering the circumstances, very natural and pertinent.
    Some have asked what I got to eat; if I did not feel lonesome; if I
    was not afraid; and the like. Others have been curious to learn
    what portion of my income I devoted to charitable purposes; and
    some, who have large families, how many poor children I maintained.
    I will therefore ask those of my readers who feel no particular
    interest in me to pardon me if I undertake to answer some of these
    questions in this book. In most books, the I, or first person, is
    omitted; in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism,
    is the main difference. We commonly do not remember that it is,
    after all, always the first person that is speaking. I should not
    talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as
    well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness
    of my experience. Moreover, I, on my side, require of every writer,
    first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not
    merely what he has heard of other men's lives; some such account as
    he would send to his kindred from a distant land; for if he has
    lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me. Perhaps
    these pages are more particularly addressed to poor students. As
    for the rest of my readers, they will accept such portions as apply
    to them. I trust that none will stretch the seams in putting on the
    coat, for it may do good service to him whom it fits.
    I would fain say something, not so much concerning the Chinese
    and Sandwich Islanders as you who read these pages, who are said to
    live in New England; something about your condition, especially your
    outward condition or circumstances in this world, in this town, what
    it is, whether it is necessary that it be as bad as it is, whether
    it cannot be improved as well as not. I have travelled a good deal
    in Concord; and everywhere, in shops, and offices, and fields, the
    inhabitants have appeared to me to be doing penance in a thousand
    remarkable ways. What I have heard of Bramins sitting exposed to
    four fires and looking in the face of the sun; or hanging suspended,
    with their heads downward, over flames; or looking at the heavens
    over their shoulders "until it becomes impossible for them to resume
    their natural position, while from the twist of the neck nothing but
    liquids can pass into the stomach"; or dwelling, chained for life,
    at the foot of a tree; or measuring with their bodies, like
    caterpillars, the breadth of vast empires; or standing on one leg on
    the tops of pillars -- even these forms of conscious penance are
    hardly more incredible and astonishing than the scenes which I daily
    witness. The twelve labors of Hercules were trifling in comparison
    with those which my neighbors have undertaken; for they were only
    twelve, and had an end; but I could never see that these men slew or
    captured any monster or finished any labor. They have no friend
    Iolaus to burn with a hot iron the root of the hydra's head, but as
    soon as one head is crushed, two spring up.
    I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have
    inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these
    are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been
    born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have
    seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in. Who
    made them serfs of the soil? Why should they eat their sixty acres,
    when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt? Why should they
    begin digging their graves as soon as they are born? They have got
    to live a man's life, pushing all these things before them, and get
    on as well as they can. How many a poor immortal soul have I met
    well-nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the
    road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by forty,
    its Augean stables never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land,
    tillage, mowing, pasture, and woodlot! The portionless, who
    struggle with no such unnecessary inherited encumbrances, find it
    labor enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh.
    But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is
    soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly
    called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book,
    laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves
    break through and steal. It is a fool's life, as they will find
    when they get to the end of it, if not before. It is said that
    Deucalion and Pyrrha created men by throwing stones over their heads
    behind them:--

    Inde genus durum sumus, experiensque laborum,
    Et documenta damus qua simus origine nati.

    Or, as Raleigh rhymes it in his sonorous way,--

    "From thence our kind hard-hearted is, enduring pain and care,
    Approving that our bodies of a stony nature are."

    So much for a blind obedience to a blundering oracle, throwing the
    stones over their heads behind them, and not seeing where they fell.
    Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere
    ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and
    superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be
    plucked by them. Their fingers, from excessive toil, are too clumsy
    and tremble too much for that. Actually, the laboring man has not
    leisure for a true integrity day by day; he cannot afford to sustain
    the manliest relations to men; his labor would be depreciated in the
    market. He has no time to be anything but a machine. How can he
    remember well his ignorance -- which his growth requires -- who has
    so often to use his knowledge? We should feed and clothe him
    gratuitously sometimes, and recruit him with our cordials, before we
    judge of him. The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on
    fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we
    do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.
    Some of you, we all know, are poor, find it hard to live, are
    sometimes, as it were, gasping for breath. I have no doubt that
    some of you who read this book are unable to pay for all the dinners
    which you have actually eaten, or for the coats and shoes which are
    fast wearing or are already worn out, and have come to this page to
    spend borrowed or stolen time, robbing your creditors of an hour.
    It is very evident what mean and sneaking lives many of you live,
    for my sight has been whetted by experience; always on the limits,
    trying to get into business and trying to get out of debt, a very
    ancient slough, called by the Latins aes alienum, another's brass,
    for some of their coins were made of brass; still living, and dying,
    and buried by this other's brass; always promising to pay, promising
    to pay, tomorrow, and dying today, insolvent; seeking to curry
    favor, to get custom, by how many modes, only not state-prison
    offenses; lying, flattering, voting, contracting yourselves into a
    nutshell of civility or dilating into an atmosphere of thin and
    vaporous generosity, that you may persuade your neighbor to let you
    make his shoes, or his hat, or his coat, or his carriage, or import
    his groceries for him; making yourselves sick, that you may lay up
    something against a sick day, something to be tucked away in an old
    chest, or in a stocking behind the plastering, or, more safely, in
    the brick bank; no matter where, no matter how much or how little.
    I sometimes wonder that we can be so frivolous, I may almost
    say, as to attend to the gross but somewhat foreign form of
    servitude called Negro Slavery, there are so many keen and subtle
    masters that enslave both North and South. It is hard to have a
    Southern overseer; it is worse to have a Northern one; but worst of
    all when you are the slave-driver of yourself. Talk of a divinity
    in man! Look at the teamster on the highway, wending to market by
    day or night; does any divinity stir within him? His highest duty
    to fodder and water his horses! What is his destiny to him compared
    with the shipping interests? Does not he drive for Squire
    Make-a-stir? How godlike, how immortal, is he? See how he cowers
    and sneaks, how vaguely all the day he fears, not being immortal nor
    divine, but the slave and prisoner of his own opinion of himself, a
    fame won by his own deeds. Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared
    with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it
    is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate.
    Self-emancipation even in the West Indian provinces of the fancy and
    imagination -- what Wilberforce is there to bring that about?
    Think, also, of the ladies of the land weaving toilet cushions
    against the last day, not to betray too green an interest in their
    fates! As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.
    The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called
    resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you
    go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the
    bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious
    despair is concealed even under what are called the games and
    amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes
    after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do
    desperate things.
    When we consider what, to use the words of the catechism, is the
    chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of
    life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode
    of living because they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly
    think there is no choice left. But alert and healthy natures
    remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up
    our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can
    be trusted without proof. What everybody echoes or in silence
    passes by as true to-day may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow,
    mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would
    sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields. What old people say you
    cannot do, you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people,
    and new deeds for new. Old people did not know enough once,
    perchance, to fetch fresh fuel to keep the fire a-going; new people
    put a little dry wood under a pot, and are whirled round the globe
    with the speed of birds, in a way to kill old people, as the phrase
    is. Age is no better, hardly so well, qualified for an instructor
    as youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost. One may
    almost doubt if the wisest man has learned anything of absolute
    value by living. Practically, the old have no very important advice
    to give the young, their own experience has been so partial, and
    their lives have been such miserable failures, for private reasons,
    as they must believe; and it may be that they have some faith left
    which belies that experience, and they are only less young than they
    were. I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet
    to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from
    my seniors. They have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me
    anything to the purpose. Here is life, an experiment to a great
    extent untried by me; but it does not avail me that they have tried
    it. If I have any experience which I think valuable, I am sure to
    reflect that this my Mentors said nothing about.
    One farmer says to me, "You cannot live on vegetable food
    solely, for it furnishes nothing to make bones with"; and so he
    religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying his system with
    the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his
    oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering
    plow along in spite of every obstacle. Some things are really
    necessaries of life in some circles, the most helpless and diseased,
    which in others are luxuries merely, and in others still are
    entirely unknown.
    The whole ground of human life seems to some to have been gone
    over by their predecessors, both the heights and the valleys, and
    all things to have been cared for. According to Evelyn, "the wise
    Solomon prescribed ordinances for the very distances of trees; and
    the Roman praetors have decided how often you may go into your
    neighbor's land to gather the acorns which fall on it without
    trespass, and what share belongs to that neighbor." Hippocrates has
    even left directions how we should cut our nails; that is, even with
    the ends of the fingers, neither shorter nor longer. Undoubtedly
    the very tedium and ennui which presume to have exhausted the
    variety and the joys of life are as old as Adam. But man's
    capacities have never been measured; nor are we to judge of what he
    can do by any precedents, so little has been tried. Whatever have
    been thy failures hitherto, "be not afflicted, my child, for who
    shall assign to thee what thou hast left undone?"
    We might try our lives by a thousand simple tests; as, for
    instance, that the same sun which ripens my beans illumines at once
    a system of earths like ours. If I had remembered this it would
    have prevented some mistakes. This was not the light in which I
    hoed them. The stars are the apexes of what wonderful triangles!
    What distant and different beings in the various mansions of the
    universe are contemplating the same one at the same moment! Nature
    and human life are as various as our several constitutions. Who
    shall say what prospect life offers to another? Could a greater
    miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for
    an instant? We should live in all the ages of the world in an hour;
    ay, in all the worlds of the ages. History, Poetry, Mythology! -- I
    know of no reading of another's experience so startling and
    informing as this would be.
    The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my
    soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be
    my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?
    You may say the wisest thing you can, old man -- you who have lived
    seventy years, not without honor of a kind -- I hear an irresistible
    voice which invites me away from all that. One generation abandons
    the enterprises of another like stranded vessels.
    I think that we may safely trust a good deal more than we do.
    We may waive just so much care of ourselves as we honestly bestow
    elsewhere. Nature is as well adapted to our weakness as to our
    strength. The incessant anxiety and strain of some is a well-nigh
    incurable form of disease. We are made to exaggerate the importance
    of what work we do; and yet how much is not done by us! or, what if
    we had been taken sick? How vigilant we are! determined not to live
    by faith if we can avoid it; all the day long on the alert, at night
    we unwillingly say our prayers and commit ourselves to
    uncertainties. So thoroughly and sincerely are we compelled to
    live, reverencing our life, and denying the possibility of change.
    This is the only way, we say; but there are as many ways as there
    can be drawn radii from one centre. All change is a miracle to
    contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every
    instant. Confucius said, "To know that we know what we know, and
    that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge."
    When one man has reduced a fact of the imagination to be a fact to
    his understanding, I foresee that all men at length establish their
    lives on that basis.
    Let us consider for a moment what most of the trouble and
    anxiety which I have referred to is about, and how much it is
    necessary that we be troubled, or at least careful. It would be
    some advantage to live a primitive and frontier life, though in the
    midst of an outward civilization, if only to learn what are the
    gross necessaries of life and what methods have been taken to obtain
    them; or even to look over the old day-books of the merchants, to
    see what it was that men most commonly bought at the stores, what
    they stored, that is, what are the grossest groceries. For the
    improvements of ages have had but little influence on the essential
    laws of man's existence; as our skeletons, probably, are not to be
    distinguished from those of our ancestors.
    By the words, necessary of life, I mean whatever, of all that
    man obtains by his own exertions, has been from the first, or from
    long use has become, so important to human life that few, if any,
    whether from savageness, or poverty, or philosophy, ever attempt to
    do without it. To many creatures there is in this sense but one
    necessary of life, Food. To the bison of the prairie it is a few
    inches of palatable grass, with water to drink; unless he seeks the
    Shelter of the forest or the mountain's shadow. None of the brute
    creation requires more than Food and Shelter. The necessaries of
    life for man in this climate may, accurately enough, be distributed
    under the several heads of Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Fuel; for
    not till we have secured these are we prepared to entertain the true
    problems of life with freedom and a prospect of success. Man has
    invented, not only houses, but clothes and cooked food; and possibly
    from the accidental discovery of the warmth of fire, and the
    consequent use of it, at first a luxury, arose the present necessity
    to sit by it. We observe cats and dogs acquiring the same second
    nature. By proper Shelter and Clothing we legitimately retain our
    own internal heat; but with an excess of these, or of Fuel, that is,
    with an external heat greater than our own internal, may not cookery
    properly be said to begin? Darwin, the naturalist, says of the
    inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, that while his own party, who were
    well clothed and sitting close to a fire, were far from too warm,
    these naked savages, who were farther off, were observed, to his
    great surprise, "to be streaming with perspiration at undergoing
    such a roasting." So, we are told, the New Hollander goes naked
    with impunity, while the European shivers in his clothes. Is it
    impossible to combine the hardiness of these savages with the
    intellectualness of the civilized man? According to Liebig, man's
    body is a stove, and food the fuel which keeps up the internal
    combustion in the lungs. In cold weather we eat more, in warm less.
    The animal heat is the result of a slow combustion, and disease and
    death take place when this is too rapid; or for want of fuel, or
    from some defect in the draught, the fire goes out. Of course the
    vital heat is not to be confounded with fire; but so much for
    analogy. It appears, therefore, from the above list, that the
    expression, animal life, is nearly synonymous with the expression,
    animal heat; for while Food may be regarded as the Fuel which keeps
    up the fire within us -- and Fuel serves only to prepare that Food
    or to increase the warmth of our bodies by addition from without --
    Shelter and Clothing also serve only to retain the heat thus
    generated and absorbed.
    The grand necessity, then, for our bodies, is to keep warm, to
    keep the vital heat in us. What pains we accordingly take, not only
    with our Food, and Clothing, and Shelter, but with our beds, which
    are our night-clothes, robbing the nests and breasts of birds to
    prepare this shelter within a shelter, as the mole has its bed of
    grass and leaves at the end of its burrow! The poor man is wont to
    complain that this is a cold world; and to cold, no less physical
    than social, we refer directly a great part of our ails. The
    summer, in some climates, makes possible to man a sort of Elysian
    life. Fuel, except to cook his Food, is then unnecessary; the sun
    is his fire, and many of the fruits are sufficiently cooked by its
    rays; while Food generally is more various, and more easily
    obtained, and Clothing and Shelter are wholly or half unnecessary.
    At the present day, and in this country, as I find by my own
    experience, a few implements, a knife, an axe, a spade, a
    wheelbarrow, etc., and for the studious, lamplight, stationery, and
    access to a few books, rank next to necessaries, and can all be
    obtained at a trifling cost. Yet some, not wise, go to the other
    side of the globe, to barbarous and unhealthy regions, and devote
    themselves to trade for ten or twenty years, in order that they may
    live -- that is, keep comfortably warm -- and die in New England at
    last. The luxuriously rich are not simply kept comfortably warm,
    but unnaturally hot; as I implied before, they are cooked, of course
    a la mode.
    Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of
    life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the
    elevation of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the
    wisest have ever lived a more simple and meagre life than the poor.
    The ancient philosophers, Chinese, Hindoo, Persian, and Greek, were
    a class than which none has been poorer in outward riches, none so
    rich in inward. We know not much about them. It is remarkable that
    we know so much of them as we do. The same is true of the more
    modern reformers and benefactors of their race. None can be an
    impartial or wise observer of human life but from the vantage ground
    of what we should call voluntary poverty. Of a life of luxury the
    fruit is luxury, whether in agriculture, or commerce, or literature,
    or art. There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not
    philosophers. Yet it is admirable to profess because it was once
    admirable to live. To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle
    thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to
    live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence,
    magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of
    life, not only theoretically, but practically. The success of great
    scholars and thinkers is commonly a courtier-like success, not
    kingly, not manly. They make shift to live merely by conformity,
    practically as their fathers did, and are in no sense the
    progenitors of a noble race of men. But why do men degenerate ever?
    What makes families run out? What is the nature of the luxury which
    enervates and destroys nations? Are we sure that there is none of
    it in our own lives? The philosopher is in advance of his age even
    in the outward form of his life. He is not fed, sheltered, clothed,
    warmed, like his contemporaries. How can a man be a philosopher and
    not maintain his vital heat by better methods than other men?
    When a man is warmed by the several modes which I have
    described, what does he want next? Surely not more warmth of the
    same kind, as more and richer food, larger and more splendid houses,
    finer and more abundant clothing, more numerous, incessant, and
    hotter fires, and the like. When he has obtained those things which
    are necessary to life, there is another alternative than to obtain
    the superfluities; and that is, to adventure on life now, his
    vacation from humbler toil having commenced. The soil, it appears,
    is suited to the seed, for it has sent its radicle downward, and it
    may now send its shoot upward also with confidence. Why has man
    rooted himself thus firmly in the earth, but that he may rise in the
    same proportion into the heavens above? -- for the nobler plants are
    valued for the fruit they bear at last in the air and light, far
    from the ground, and are not treated like the humbler esculents,
    which, though they may be biennials, are cultivated only till they
    have perfected their root, and often cut down at top for this
    purpose, so that most would not know them in their flowering season.
    I do not mean to prescribe rules to strong and valiant natures,
    who will mind their own affairs whether in heaven or hell, and
    perchance build more magnificently and spend more lavishly than the
    richest, without ever impoverishing themselves, not knowing how they
    live -- if, indeed, there are any such, as has been dreamed; nor to
    those who find their encouragement and inspiration in precisely the
    present condition of things, and cherish it with the fondness and
    enthusiasm of lovers -- and, to some extent, I reckon myself in this
    number; I do not speak to those who are well employed, in whatever
    circumstances, and they know whether they are well employed or not;
    -- but mainly to the mass of men who are discontented, and idly
    complaining of the hardness of their lot or of the times, when they
    might improve them. There are some who complain most energetically
    and inconsolably of any, because they are, as they say, doing their
    duty. I also have in my mind that seemingly wealthy, but most
    terribly impoverished class of all, who have accumulated dross, but
    know not how to use it, or get rid of it, and thus have forged their
    own golden or silver fetters.
    If I should attempt to tell how I have desired to spend my life
    in years past, it would probably surprise those of my readers who
    are somewhat acquainted with its actual history; it would certainly
    astonish those who know nothing about it. I will only hint at some
    of the enterprises which I have cherished.
    In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been
    anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too;
    to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future,
    which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line. You will
    pardon some obscurities, for there are more secrets in my trade than
    in most men's, and yet not voluntarily kept, but inseparable from
    its very nature. I would gladly tell all that I know about it, and
    never paint "No Admittance" on my gate.
    I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle dove, and am
    still on their trail. Many are the travellers I have spoken
    concerning them, describing their tracks and what calls they
    answered to. I have met one or two who had heard the hound, and the
    tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud,
    and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them
    To anticipate, not the sunrise and the dawn merely, but, if
    possible, Nature herself! How many mornings, summer and winter,
    before yet any neighbor was stirring about his business, have I been
    about mine! No doubt, many of my townsmen have met me returning
    from this enterprise, farmers starting for Boston in the twilight,
    or woodchoppers going to their work. It is true, I never assisted
    the sun materially in his rising, but, doubt not, it was of the last
    importance only to be present at it.
    So many autumn, ay, and winter days, spent outside the town,
    trying to hear what was in the wind, to hear and carry it express!
    I well-nigh sunk all my capital in it, and lost my own breath into
    the bargain, running in the face of it. If it had concerned either
    of the political parties, depend upon it, it would have appeared in
    the Gazette with the earliest intelligence. At other times watching
    from the observatory of some cliff or tree, to telegraph any new
    arrival; or waiting at evening on the hill-tops for the sky to fall,
    that I might catch something, though I never caught much, and that,
    manna-wise, would dissolve again in the sun.
    For a long time I was reporter to a journal, of no very wide
    circulation, whose editor has never yet seen fit to print the bulk
    of my contributions, and, as is too common with writers, I got only
    my labor for my pains. However, in this case my pains were their
    own reward.
    For many years I was self-appointed inspector of snow-storms and
    rain-storms, and did my duty faithfully; surveyor, if not of
    highways, then of forest paths and all across-lot routes, keeping
    them open, and ravines bridged and passable at all seasons, where
    the public heel had testified to their utility.
    I have looked after the wild stock of the town, which give a
    faithful herdsman a good deal of trouble by leaping fences; and I
    have had an eye to the unfrequented nooks and corners of the farm;
    though I did not always know whether Jonas or Solomon worked in a
    particular field to-day; that was none of my business. I have
    watered the red huckleberry, the sand cherry and the nettle-tree,
    the red pine and the black ash, the white grape and the yellow
    violet, which might have withered else in dry seasons.
    In short, I went on thus for a long time (I may say it without
    boasting), faithfully minding my business, till it became more and
    more evident that my townsmen would not after all admit me into the
    list of town officers, nor make my place a sinecure with a moderate
    allowance. My accounts, which I can swear to have kept faithfully,
    I have, indeed, never got audited, still less accepted, still less
    paid and settled. However, I have not set my heart on that.
    Not long since, a strolling Indian went to sell baskets at the
    house of a well-known lawyer in my neighborhood. "Do you wish to
    buy any baskets?" he asked. "No, we do not want any," was the
    reply. "What!" exclaimed the Indian as he went out the gate, "do
    you mean to starve us?" Having seen his industrious white neighbors
    so well off -- that the lawyer had only to weave arguments, and, by
    some magic, wealth and standing followed -- he had said to himself:
    I will go into business; I will weave baskets; it is a thing which I
    can do. Thinking that when he had made the baskets he would have
    done his part, and then it would be the white man's to buy them. He
    had not discovered that it was necessary for him to make it worth
    the other's while to buy them, or at least make him think that it
    was so, or to make something else which it would be worth his while
    to buy. I too had woven a kind of basket of a delicate texture, but
    I had not made it worth any one's while to buy them. Yet not the
    less, in my case, did I think it worth my while to weave them, and
    instead of studying how to make it worth men's while to buy my
    baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling
    them. The life which men praise and regard as successful is but one
    kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of the
    Finding that my fellow-citizens were not likely to offer me any
    room in the court house, or any curacy or living anywhere else, but
    I must shift for myself, I turned my face more exclusively than ever
    to the woods, where I was better known. I determined to go into
    business at once, and not wait to acquire the usual capital, using
    such slender means as I had already got. My purpose in going to
    Walden Pond was not to live cheaply nor to live dearly there, but to
    transact some private business with the fewest obstacles; to be
    hindered from accomplishing which for want of a little common sense,
    a little enterprise and business talent, appeared not so sad as
    I have always endeavored to acquire strict business habits; they
    are indispensable to every man. If your trade is with the Celestial
    Empire, then some small counting house on the coast, in some Salem
    harbor, will be fixture enough. You will export such articles as
    the country affords, purely native products, much ice and pine
    timber and a little granite, always in native bottoms. These will
    be good ventures. To oversee all the details yourself in person; to
    be at once pilot and captain, and owner and underwriter; to buy and
    sell and keep the accounts; to read every letter received, and write
    or read every letter sent; to superintend the discharge of imports
    night and day; to be upon many parts of the coast almost at the same
    time -- often the richest freight will be discharged upon a Jersey
    shore; -- to be your own telegraph, unweariedly sweeping the
    horizon, speaking all passing vessels bound coastwise; to keep up a
    steady despatch of commodities, for the supply of such a distant and
    exorbitant market; to keep yourself informed of the state of the
    markets, prospects of war and peace everywhere, and anticipate the
    tendencies of trade and civilization -- taking advantage of the
    results of all exploring expeditions, using new passages and all
    improvements in navigation; -- charts to be studied, the position of
    reefs and new lights and buoys to be ascertained, and ever, and
    ever, the logarithmic tables to be corrected, for by the error of
    some calculator the vessel often splits upon a rock that should have
    reached a friendly pier -- there is the untold fate of La Prouse;
    -- universal science to be kept pace with, studying the lives of all
    great discoverers and navigators, great adventurers and merchants,
    from Hanno and the Phoenicians down to our day; in fine, account of
    stock to be taken from time to time, to know how you stand. It is a
    labor to task the faculties of a man -- such problems of profit and
    loss, of interest, of tare and tret, and gauging of all kinds in it,
    as demand a universal knowledge.
    I have thought that Walden Pond would be a good place for
    business, not solely on account of the railroad and the ice trade;
    it offers advantages which it may not be good policy to divulge; it
    is a good port and a good foundation. No Neva marshes to be filled;
    though you must everywhere build on piles of your own driving. It
    is said that a flood-tide, with a westerly wind, and ice in the
    Neva, would sweep St. Petersburg from the face of the earth.
    As this business was to be entered into without the usual
    capital, it may not be easy to conjecture where those means, that
    will still be indispensable to every such undertaking, were to be
    obtained. As for Clothing, to come at once to the practical part of
    the question, perhaps we are led oftener by the love of novelty and
    a regard for the opinions of men, in procuring it, than by a true
    utility. Let him who has work to do recollect that the object of
    clothing is, first, to retain the vital heat, and secondly, in this
    state of society, to cover nakedness, and he may judge how much of
    any necessary or important work may be accomplished without adding
    to his wardrobe. Kings and queens who wear a suit but once, though
    made by some tailor or dressmaker to their majesties, cannot know
    the comfort of wearing a suit that fits. They are no better than
    wooden horses to hang the clean clothes on. Every day our garments
    become more assimilated to ourselves, receiving the impress of the
    wearer's character, until we hesitate to lay them aside without such
    delay and medical appliances and some such solemnity even as our
    bodies. No man ever stood the lower in my estimation for having a
    patch in his clothes; yet I am sure that there is greater anxiety,
    commonly, to have fashionable, or at least clean and unpatched
    clothes, than to have a sound conscience. But even if the rent is
    not mended, perhaps the worst vice betrayed is improvidence. I
    sometimes try my acquaintances by such tests as this -- Who could
    wear a patch, or two extra seams only, over the knee? Most behave
    as if they believed that their prospects for life would be ruined if
    they should do it. It would be easier for them to hobble to town
    with a broken leg than with a broken pantaloon. Often if an
    accident happens to a gentleman's legs, they can be mended; but if a
    similar accident happens to the legs of his pantaloons, there is no
    help for it; for he considers, not what is truly respectable, but
    what is respected. We know but few men, a great many coats and
    breeches. Dress a scarecrow in your last shift, you standing
    shiftless by, who would not soonest salute the scarecrow? Passing a
    cornfield the other day, close by a hat and coat on a stake, I
    recognized the owner of the farm. He was only a little more
    weather-beaten than when I saw him last. I have heard of a dog that
    barked at every stranger who approached his master's premises with
    clothes on, but was easily quieted by a naked thief. It is an
    interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if
    they were divested of their clothes. Could you, in such a case,
    tell surely of any company of civilized men which belonged to the
    most respected class? When Madam Pfeiffer, in her adventurous
    travels round the world, from east to west, had got so near home as
    Asiatic Russia, she says that she felt the necessity of wearing
    other than a travelling dress, when she went to meet the
    authorities, for she "was now in a civilized country, where ...
    people are judged of by their clothes." Even in our democratic New
    England towns the accidental possession of wealth, and its
    manifestation in dress and equipage alone, obtain for the possessor
    almost universal respect. But they yield such respect, numerous as
    they are, are so far heathen, and need to have a missionary sent to
    them. Beside, clothes introduced sewing, a kind of work which you
    may call endless; a woman's dress, at least, is never done.
    A man who has at length found something to do will not need to
    get a new suit to do it in; for him the old will do, that has lain
    dusty in the garret for an indeterminate period. Old shoes will
    serve a hero longer than they have served his valet -- if a hero
    ever has a valet -- bare feet are older than shoes, and he can make
    them do. Only they who go to soires and legislative balls must
    have new coats, coats to change as often as the man changes in them.
    But if my jacket and trousers, my hat and shoes, are fit to worship
    God in, they will do; will they not? Who ever saw his old clothes
    -- his old coat, actually worn out, resolved into its primitive
    elements, so that it was not a deed of charity to bestow it on some
    poor boy, by him perchance to be bestowed on some poorer still, or
    shall we say richer, who could do with less? I say, beware of all
    enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of
    clothes. If there is not a new man, how can the new clothes be made
    to fit? If you have any enterprise before you, try it in your old
    clothes. All men want, not something to do with, but something to
    do, or rather something to be. Perhaps we should never procure a
    new suit, however ragged or dirty the old, until we have so
    conducted, so enterprised or sailed in some way, that we feel like
    new men in the old, and that to retain it would be like keeping new
    wine in old bottles. Our moulting season, like that of the fowls,
    must be a crisis in our lives. The loon retires to solitary ponds
    to spend it. Thus also the snake casts its slough, and the
    caterpillar its wormy coat, by an internal industry and expansion;
    for clothes are but our outmost cuticle and mortal coil. Otherwise
    we shall be found sailing under false colors, and be inevitably
    cashiered at last by our own opinion, as well as that of mankind.
    We don garment after garment, as if we grew like exogenous
    plants by addition without. Our outside and often thin and fanciful
    clothes are our epidermis, or false skin, which partakes not of our
    life, and may be stripped off here and there without fatal injury;
    our thicker garments, constantly worn, are our cellular integument,
    or cortex; but our shirts are our liber, or true bark, which cannot
    be removed without girdling and so destroying the man. I believe
    that all races at some seasons wear something equivalent to the
    shirt. It is desirable that a man be clad so simply that he can lay
    his hands on himself in the dark, and that he live in all respects
    so compactly and preparedly that, if an enemy take the town, he can,
    like the old philosopher, walk out the gate empty-handed without
    anxiety. While one thick garment is, for most purposes, as good as
    three thin ones, and cheap clothing can be obtained at prices really
    to suit customers; while a thick coat can be bought for five
    dollars, which will last as many years, thick pantaloons for two
    dollars, cowhide boots for a dollar and a half a pair, a summer hat
    for a quarter of a dollar, and a winter cap for sixty-two and a half
    cents, or a better be made at home at a nominal cost, where is he so
    poor that, clad in such a suit, of his own earning, there will not
    be found wise men to do him reverence?
    When I ask for a garment of a particular form, my tailoress
    tells me gravely, "They do not make them so now," not emphasizing
    the "They" at all, as if she quoted an authority as impersonal as
    the Fates, and I find it difficult to get made what I want, simply
    because she cannot believe that I mean what I say, that I am so
    rash. When I hear this oracular sentence, I am for a moment
    absorbed in thought, emphasizing to myself each word separately that
    I may come at the meaning of it, that I may find out by what degree
    of consanguinity They are related to me, and what authority they
    may have in an affair which affects me so nearly; and, finally, I am
    inclined to answer her with equal mystery, and without any more
    emphasis of the "they" -- "It is true, they did not make them so
    recently, but they do now." Of what use this measuring of me if she
    does not measure my character, but only the breadth of my shoulders,
    as it were a peg to bang the coat on? We worship not the Graces,
    nor the Parcae, but Fashion. She spins and weaves and cuts with
    full authority. The head monkey at Paris puts on a traveller's cap,
    and all the monkeys in America do the same. I sometimes despair of
    getting anything quite simple and honest done in this world by the
    help of men. They would have to be passed through a powerful press
    first, to squeeze their old notions out of them, so that they would
    not soon get upon their legs again; and then there would be some one
    in the company with a maggot in his head, hatched from an egg
    deposited there nobody knows when, for not even fire kills these
    things, and you would have lost your labor. Nevertheless, we will
    not forget that some Egyptian wheat was handed down to us by a
    On the whole, I think that it cannot be maintained that dressing
    has in this or any country risen to the dignity of an art. At
    present men make shift to wear what they can get. Like shipwrecked
    sailors, they put on what they can find on the beach, and at a
    little distance, whether of space or time, laugh at each other's
    masquerade. Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but
    follows religiously the new. We are amused at beholding the costume
    of Henry VIII, or Queen Elizabeth, as much as if it was that of the
    King and Queen of the Cannibal Islands. All costume off a man is
    pitiful or grotesque. It is only the serious eye peering from and
    the sincere life passed within it which restrain laughter and
    consecrate the costume of any people. Let Harlequin be taken with a
    fit of the colic and his trappings will have to serve that mood too.
    When the soldier is hit by a cannonball, rags are as becoming as
    The childish and savage taste of men and women for new patterns
    keeps how many shaking and squinting through kaleidoscopes that they
    may discover the particular figure which this generation requires
    today. The manufacturers have learned that this taste is merely
    whimsical. Of two patterns which differ only by a few threads more
    or less of a particular color, the one will be sold readily, the
    other lie on the shelf, though it frequently happens that after the
    lapse of a season the latter becomes the most fashionable.
    Comparatively, tattooing is not the hideous custom which it is
    called. It is not barbarous merely because the printing is
    skin-deep and unalterable.
    I cannot believe that our factory system is the best mode by
    which men may get clothing. The condition of the operatives is
    becoming every day more like that of the English; and it cannot be
    wondered at, since, as far as I have heard or observed, the
    principal object is, not that mankind may be well and honestly clad,
    but, unquestionably, that corporations may be enriched. In the long
    run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should
    fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.
    As for a Shelter, I will not deny that this is now a necessary
    of life, though there are instances of men having done without it
    for long periods in colder countries than this. Samuel Laing says
    that "the Laplander in his skin dress, and in a skin bag which he
    puts over his head and shoulders, will sleep night after night on
    the snow ... in a degree of cold which would extinguish the life of
    one exposed to it in any woollen clothing." He had seen them asleep
    thus. Yet he adds, "They are not hardier than other people." But,
    probably, man did not live long on the earth without discovering the
    convenience which there is in a house, the domestic comforts, which
    phrase may have originally signified the satisfactions of the house
    more than of the family; though these must be extremely partial and
    occasional in those climates where the house is associated in our
    thoughts with winter or the rainy season chiefly, and two thirds of
    the year, except for a parasol, is unnecessary. In our climate, in
    the summer, it was formerly almost solely a covering at night. In
    the Indian gazettes a wigwam was the symbol of a day's march, and a
    row of them cut or painted on the bark of a tree signified that so
    many times they had camped. Man was not made so large limbed and
    robust but that he must seek to narrow his world and wall in a space
    such as fitted him. He was at first bare and out of doors; but
    though this was pleasant enough in serene and warm weather, by
    daylight, the rainy season and the winter, to say nothing of the
    torrid sun, would perhaps have nipped his race in the bud if he had
    not made haste to clothe himself with the shelter of a house. Adam
    and Eve, according to the fable, wore the bower before other
    clothes. Man wanted a home, a place of warmth, or comfort, first of
    warmth, then the warmth of the affections.
    We may imagine a time when, in the infancy of the human race,
    some enterprising mortal crept into a hollow in a rock for shelter.
    Every child begins the world again, to some extent, and loves to
    stay outdoors, even in wet and cold. It plays house, as well as
    horse, having an instinct for it. Who does not remember the
    interest with which, when young, he looked at shelving rocks, or any
    approach to a cave? It was the natural yearning of that portion,
    any portion of our most primitive ancestor which still survived in
    us. From the cave we have advanced to roofs of palm leaves, of bark
    and boughs, of linen woven and stretched, of grass and straw, of
    boards and shingles, of stones and tiles. At last, we know not what
    it is to live in the open air, and our lives are domestic in more
    senses than we think. From the hearth the field is a great
    distance. It would be well, perhaps, if we were to spend more of
    our days and nights without any obstruction between us and the
    celestial bodies, if the poet did not speak so much from under a
    roof, or the saint dwell there so long. Birds do not sing in caves,
    nor do doves cherish their innocence in dovecots.
    However, if one designs to construct a dwelling-house, it
    behooves him to exercise a little Yankee shrewdness, lest after all
    he find himself in a workhouse, a labyrinth without a clue, a
    museum, an almshouse, a prison, or a splendid mausoleum instead.
    Consider first how slight a shelter is absolutely necessary. I have
    seen Penobscot Indians, in this town, living in tents of thin cotton
    cloth, while the snow was nearly a foot deep around them, and I
    thought that they would be glad to have it deeper to keep out the
    wind. Formerly, when how to get my living honestly, with freedom
    left for my proper pursuits, was a question which vexed me even more
    than it does now, for unfortunately I am become somewhat callous, I
    used to see a large box by the railroad, six feet long by three
    wide, in which the laborers locked up their tools at night; and it
    suggested to me that every man who was hard pushed might get such a
    one for a dollar, and, having bored a few auger holes in it, to
    admit the air at least, get into it when it rained and at night, and
    hook down the lid, and so have freedom in his love, and in his soul
    be free. This did not appear the worst, nor by any means a
    despicable alternative. You could sit up as late as you pleased,
    and, whenever you got up, go abroad without any landlord or
    house-lord dogging you for rent. Many a man is harassed to death to
    pay the rent of a larger and more luxurious box who would not have
    frozen to death in such a box as this. I am far from jesting.
    Economy is a subject which admits of being treated with levity, but
    it cannot so be disposed of. A comfortable house for a rude and
    hardy race, that lived mostly out of doors, was once made here
    almost entirely of such materials as Nature furnished ready to their
    hands. Gookin, who was superintendent of the Indians subject to the
    Massachusetts Colony, writing in 1674, says, "The best of their
    houses are covered very neatly, tight and warm, with barks of trees,
    slipped from their bodies at those seasons when the sap is up, and
    made into great flakes, with pressure of weighty timber, when they
    are green.... The meaner sort are covered with mats which they make
    of a kind of bulrush, and are also indifferently tight and warm, but
    not so good as the former.... Some I have seen, sixty or a hundred
    feet long and thirty feet broad.... I have often lodged in their
    wigwams, and found them as warm as the best English houses." He
    adds that they were commonly carpeted and lined within with
    well-wrought embroidered mats, and were furnished with various
    utensils. The Indians had advanced so far as to regulate the effect
    of the wind by a mat suspended over the hole in the roof and moved
    by a string. Such a lodge was in the first instance constructed in
    a day or two at most, and taken down and put up in a few hours; and
    every family owned one, or its apartment in one.
    In the savage state every family owns a shelter as good as the
    best, and sufficient for its coarser and simpler wants; but I think
    that I speak within bounds when I say that, though the birds of the
    air have their nests, and the foxes their holes, and the savages
    their wigwams, in modern civilized society not more than one half
    the families own a shelter. In the large towns and cities, where
    civilization especially prevails, the number of those who own a
    shelter is a very small fraction of the whole. The rest pay an
    annual tax for this outside garment of all, become indispensable
    summer and winter, which would buy a village of Indian wigwams, but
    now helps to keep them poor as long as they live. I do not mean to
    insist here on the disadvantage of hiring compared with owning, but
    it is evident that the savage owns his shelter because it costs so
    little, while the civilized man hires his commonly because he cannot
    afford to own it; nor can he, in the long run, any better afford to
    hire. But, answers one, by merely paying this tax, the poor
    civilized man secures an abode which is a palace compared with the
    savage's. An annual rent of from twenty-five to a hundred dollars
    (these are the country rates) entitles him to the benefit of the
    improvements of centuries, spacious apartments, clean paint and
    paper, Rumford fire-place, back plastering, Venetian blinds, copper
    pump, spring lock, a commodious cellar, and many other things. But
    how happens it that he who is said to enjoy these things is so
    commonly a poor civilized man, while the savage, who has them not,
    is rich as a savage? If it is asserted that civilization is a real
    advance in the condition of man -- and I think that it is, though
    only the wise improve their advantages -- it must be shown that it
    has produced better dwellings without making them more costly; and
    the cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is
    required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run. An
    average house in this neighborhood costs perhaps eight hundred
    dollars, and to lay up this sum will take from ten to fifteen years
    of the laborer's life, even if he is not encumbered with a family --
    estimating the pecuniary value of every man's labor at one dollar a
    day, for if some receive more, others receive less; -- so that he
    must have spent more than half his life commonly before his wigwam
    will be earned. If we suppose him to pay a rent instead, this is
    but a doubtful choice of evils. Would the savage have been wise to
    exchange his wigwam for a palace on these terms?
    It may be guessed that I reduce almost the whole advantage of
    holding this superfluous property as a fund in store against the
    future, so far as the individual is concerned, mainly to the
    defraying of funeral expenses. But perhaps a man is not required to
    bury himself. Nevertheless this points to an important distinction
    between the civilized man and the savage; and, no doubt, they have
    designs on us for our benefit, in making the life of a civilized
    people an institution, in which the life of the individual is to a
    great extent absorbed, in order to preserve and perfect that of the
    race. But I wish to show at what a sacrifice this advantage is at
    present obtained, and to suggest that we may possibly so live as to
    secure all the advantage without suffering any of the disadvantage.
    What mean ye by saying that the poor ye have always with you, or
    that the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth
    are set on edge?
    "As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any
    more to use this proverb in Israel.
    "Behold all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also
    the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die."
    When I consider my neighbors, the farmers of Concord, who are at
    least as well off as the other classes, I find that for the most
    part they have been toiling twenty, thirty, or forty years, that
    they may become the real owners of their farms, which commonly they
    have inherited with encumbrances, or else bought with hired money --
    and we may regard one third of that toil as the cost of their houses
    -- but commonly they have not paid for them yet. It is true, the
    encumbrances sometimes outweigh the value of the farm, so that the
    farm itself becomes one great encumbrance, and still a man is found
    to inherit it, being well acquainted with it, as he says. On
    applying to the assessors, I am surprised to learn that they cannot
    at once name a dozen in the town who own their farms free and clear.
    If you would know the history of these homesteads, inquire at the
    bank where they are mortgaged. The man who has actually paid for
    his farm with labor on it is so rare that every neighbor can point
    to him. I doubt if there are three such men in Concord. What has
    been said of the merchants, that a very large majority, even
    ninety-seven in a hundred, are sure to fail, is equally true of the
    farmers. With regard to the merchants, however, one of them says
    pertinently that a great part of their failures are not genuine
    pecuniary failures, but merely failures to fulfil their engagements,
    because it is inconvenient; that is, it is the moral character that
    breaks down. But this puts an infinitely worse face on the matter,
    and suggests, beside, that probably not even the other three succeed
    in saving their souls, but are perchance bankrupt in a worse sense
    than they who fail honestly. Bankruptcy and repudiation are the
    springboards from which much of our civilization vaults and turns
    its somersets, but the savage stands on the unelastic plank of
    famine. Yet the Middlesex Cattle Show goes off here with eclat
    annually, as if all the joints of the agricultural machine were
    The farmer is endeavoring to solve the problem of a livelihood
    by a formula more complicated than the problem itself. To get his
    shoestrings he speculates in herds of cattle. With consummate skill
    he has set his trap with a hair spring to catch comfort and
    independence, and then, as he turned away, got his own leg into it.
    This is the reason he is poor; and for a similar reason we are all
    poor in respect to a thousand savage comforts, though surrounded by
    luxuries. As Chapman sings,

    "The false society of men --
    -- for earthly greatness
    All heavenly comforts rarefies to air."

    And when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer
    but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him. As I
    understand it, that was a valid objection urged by Momus against the
    house which Minerva made, that she "had not made it movable, by
    which means a bad neighborhood might be avoided"; and it may still
    be urged, for our houses are such unwieldy property that we are
    often imprisoned rather than housed in them; and the bad
    neighborhood to be avoided is our own scurvy selves. I know one or
    two families, at least, in this town, who, for nearly a generation,
    have been wishing to sell their houses in the outskirts and move
    into the village, but have not been able to accomplish it, and only
    death will set them free.
    Granted that the majority are able at last either to own or hire
    the modern house with all its improvements. While civilization has
    been improving our houses, it has not equally improved the men who
    are to inhabit them. It has created palaces, but it was not so easy
    to create noblemen and kings. And if the civilized man's pursuits
    are no worthier than the savage's, if he is employed the greater
    part of his life in obtaining gross necessaries and comforts merely,
    why should he have a better dwelling than the former?
    But how do the poor minority fare? Perhaps it will be found
    that just in proportion as some have been placed in outward
    circumstances above the savage, others have been degraded below him.
    The luxury of one class is counterbalanced by the indigence of
    another. On the one side is the palace, on the other are the
    almshouse and "silent poor." The myriads who built the pyramids to
    be the tombs of the Pharaohs were fed on garlic, and it may be were
    not decently buried themselves. The mason who finishes the cornice
    of the palace returns at night perchance to a hut not so good as a
    wigwam. It is a mistake to suppose that, in a country where the
    usual evidences of civilization exist, the condition of a very large
    body of the inhabitants may not be as degraded as that of savages.
    I refer to the degraded poor, not now to the degraded rich. To know
    this I should not need to look farther than to the shanties which
    everywhere border our railroads, that last improvement in
    civilization; where I see in my daily walks human beings living in
    sties, and all winter with an open door, for the sake of light,
    without any visible, often imaginable, wood-pile, and the forms of
    both old and young are permanently contracted by the long habit of
    shrinking from cold and misery, and the development of all their
    limbs and faculties is checked. It certainly is fair to look at
    that class by whose labor the works which distinguish this
    generation are accomplished. Such too, to a greater or less extent,
    is the condition of the operatives of every denomination in England,
    which is the great workhouse of the world. Or I could refer you to
    Ireland, which is marked as one of the white or enlightened spots on
    the map. Contrast the physical condition of the Irish with that of
    the North American Indian, or the South Sea Islander, or any other
    savage race before it was degraded by contact with the civilized
    man. Yet I have no doubt that that people's rulers are as wise as
    the average of civilized rulers. Their condition only proves what
    squalidness may consist with civilization. I hardly need refer now
    to the laborers in our Southern States who produce the staple
    exports of this country, and are themselves a staple production of
    the South. But to confine myself to those who are said to be in
    moderate circumstances.
    Most men appear never to have considered what a house is, and
    are actually though needlessly poor all their lives because they
    think that they must have such a one as their neighbors have. As if
    one were to wear any sort of coat which the tailor might cut out for
    him, or, gradually leaving off palm-leaf hat or cap of woodchuck
    skin, complain of hard times because he could not afford to buy him
    a crown! It is possible to invent a house still more convenient and
    luxurious than we have, which yet all would admit that man could not
    afford to pay for. Shall we always study to obtain more of these
    things, and not sometimes to be content with less? Shall the
    respectable citizen thus gravely teach, by precept and example, the
    necessity of the young man's providing a certain number of
    superfluous glow-shoes, and umbrellas, and empty guest chambers for
    empty guests, before he dies? Why should not our furniture be as
    simple as the Arab's or the Indian's? When I think of the
    benefactors of the race, whom we have apotheosized as messengers
    from heaven, bearers of divine gifts to man, I do not see in my mind
    any retinue at their heels, any carload of fashionable furniture.
    Or what if I were to allow -- would it not be a singular allowance?
    -- that our furniture should be more complex than the Arab's, in
    proportion as we are morally and intellectually his superiors! At
    present our houses are cluttered and defiled with it, and a good
    housewife would sweep out the greater part into the dust hole, and
    not leave her morning's work undone. Morning work! By the blushes
    of Aurora and the music of Memnon, what should be man's morning work
    in this world? I had three pieces of limestone on my desk, but I
    was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily, when
    the furniture of my mind was all undusted still, and threw them out
    the window in disgust. How, then, could I have a furnished house?
    I would rather sit in the open air, for no dust gathers on the
    grass, unless where man has broken ground.
    It is the luxurious and dissipated who set the fashions which
    the herd so diligently follow. The traveller who stops at the best
    houses, so called, soon discovers this, for the publicans presume
    him to be a Sardanapalus, and if he resigned himself to their tender
    mercies he would soon be completely emasculated. I think that in
    the railroad car we are inclined to spend more on luxury than on
    safety and convenience, and it threatens without attaining these to
    become no better than a modern drawing-room, with its divans, and
    ottomans, and sun-shades, and a hundred other oriental things, which
    we are taking west with us, invented for the ladies of the harem and
    the effeminate natives of the Celestial Empire, which Jonathan
    should be ashamed to know the names of. I would rather sit on a
    pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet
    cushion. I would rather ride on earth in an ox cart, with a free
    circulation, than go to heaven in the fancy car of an excursion
    train and breathe a malaria all the way.
    The very simplicity and nakedness of man's life in the primitive
    ages imply this advantage, at least, that they left him still but a
    sojourner in nature. When he was refreshed with food and sleep, he
    contemplated his journey again. He dwelt, as it were, in a tent in
    this world, and was either threading the valleys, or crossing the
    plains, or climbing the mountain-tops. But lo! men have become the
    tools of their tools. The man who independently plucked the fruits
    when he was hungry is become a farmer; and he who stood under a tree
    for shelter, a housekeeper. We now no longer camp as for a night,
    but have settled down on earth and forgotten heaven. We have
    adopted Christianity merely as an improved method of agri-culture.
    We have built for this world a family mansion, and for the next a
    family tomb. The best works of art are the expression of man's
    struggle to free himself from this condition, but the effect of our
    art is merely to make this low state comfortable and that higher
    state to be forgotten. There is actually no place in this village
    for a work of fine art, if any had come down to us, to stand, for
    our lives, our houses and streets, furnish no proper pedestal for
    it. There is not a nail to hang a picture on, nor a shelf to
    receive the bust of a hero or a saint. When I consider how our
    houses are built and paid for, or not paid for, and their internal
    economy managed and sustained, I wonder that the floor does not give
    way under the visitor while he is admiring the gewgaws upon the
    mantelpiece, and let him through into the cellar, to some solid and
    honest though earthy foundation. I cannot but perceive that this
    so-called rich and refined life is a thing jumped at, and I do not
    get on in the enjoyment of the fine arts which adorn it, my
    attention being wholly occupied with the jump; for I remember that
    the greatest genuine leap, due to human muscles alone, on record, is
    that of certain wandering Arabs, who are said to have cleared
    twenty-five feet on level ground. Without factitious support, man
    is sure to come to earth again beyond that distance. The first
    question which I am tempted to put to the proprietor of such great
    impropriety is, Who bolsters you? Are you one of the ninety-seven
    who fail, or the three who succeed? Answer me these questions, and
    then perhaps I may look at your bawbles and find them ornamental.
    The cart before the horse is neither beautiful nor useful. Before
    we can adorn our houses with beautiful objects the walls must be
    stripped, and our lives must be stripped, and beautiful housekeeping
    and beautiful living be laid for a foundation: now, a taste for the
    beautiful is most cultivated out of doors, where there is no house
    and no housekeeper.
    Old Johnson, in his "Wonder-Working Providence," speaking of the
    first settlers of this town, with whom he was contemporary, tells us
    that "they burrow themselves in the earth for their first shelter
    under some hillside, and, casting the soil aloft upon timber, they
    make a smoky fire against the earth, at the highest side." They did
    not "provide them houses," says he, "till the earth, by the Lord's
    blessing, brought forth bread to feed them," and the first year's
    crop was so light that "they were forced to cut their bread very
    thin for a long season." The secretary of the Province of New
    Netherland, writing in Dutch, in 1650, for the information of those
    who wished to take up land there, states more particularly that
    "those in New Netherland, and especially in New England, who have no
    means to build farmhouses at first according to their wishes, dig a
    square pit in the ground, cellar fashion, six or seven feet deep, as
    long and as broad as they think proper, case the earth inside with
    wood all round the wall, and line the wood with the bark of trees or
    something else to prevent the caving in of the earth; floor this
    cellar with plank, and wainscot it overhead for a ceiling, raise a
    roof of spars clear up, and cover the spars with bark or green sods,
    so that they can live dry and warm in these houses with their entire
    families for two, three, and four years, it being understood that
    partitions are run through those cellars which are adapted to the
    size of the family. The wealthy and principal men in New England,
    in the beginning of the colonies, commenced their first
    dwelling-houses in this fashion for two reasons: firstly, in order
    not to waste time in building, and not to want food the next season;
    secondly, in order not to discourage poor laboring people whom they
    brought over in numbers from Fatherland. In the course of three or
    four years, when the country became adapted to agriculture, they
    built themselves handsome houses, spending on them several
    In this course which our ancestors took there was a show of
    prudence at least, as if their principle were to satisfy the more
    pressing wants first. But are the more pressing wants satisfied
    now? When I think of acquiring for myself one of our luxurious
    dwellings, I am deterred, for, so to speak, the country is not yet
    adapted to human culture, and we are still forced to cut our
    spiritual bread far thinner than our forefathers did their wheaten.
    Not that all architectural ornament is to be neglected even in the
    rudest periods; but let our houses first be lined with beauty, where
    they come in contact with our lives, like the tenement of the
    shellfish, and not overlaid with it. But, alas! I have been inside
    one or two of them, and know what they are lined with.
    Though we are not so degenerate but that we might possibly live
    in a cave or a wigwam or wear skins today, it certainly is better to
    accept the advantages, though so dearly bought, which the invention
    and industry of mankind offer. In such a neighborhood as this,
    boards and shingles, lime and bricks, are cheaper and more easily
    obtained than suitable caves, or whole logs, or bark in sufficient
    quantities, or even well-tempered clay or flat stones. I speak
    understandingly on this subject, for I have made myself acquainted
    with it both theoretically and practically. With a little more wit
    we might use these materials so as to become richer than the richest
    now are, and make our civilization a blessing. The civilized man is
    a more experienced and wiser savage. But to make haste to my own
    Near the end of March, 1845, I borrowed an axe and went down to
    the woods by Walden Pond, nearest to where I intended to build my
    house, and began to cut down some tall, arrowy white pines, still in
    their youth, for timber. It is difficult to begin without
    borrowing, but perhaps it is the most generous course thus to permit
    your fellow-men to have an interest in your enterprise. The owner
    of the axe, as he released his hold on it, said that it was the
    apple of his eye; but I returned it sharper than I received it. It
    was a pleasant hillside where I worked, covered with pine woods,
    through which I looked out on the pond, and a small open field in
    the woods where pines and hickories were springing up. The ice in
    the pond was not yet dissolved, though there were some open spaces,
    and it was all dark-colored and saturated with water. There were
    some slight flurries of snow during the days that I worked there;
    but for the most part when I came out on to the railroad, on my way
    home, its yellow sand heap stretched away gleaming in the hazy
    atmosphere, and the rails shone in the spring sun, and I heard the
    lark and pewee and other birds already come to commence another year
    with us. They were pleasant spring days, in which the winter of
    man's discontent was thawing as well as the earth, and the life that
    had lain torpid began to stretch itself. One day, when my axe had
    come off and I had cut a green hickory for a wedge, driving it with
    a stone, and had placed the whole to soak in a pond-hole in order to
    swell the wood, I saw a striped snake run into the water, and he lay
    on the bottom, apparently without inconvenience, as long as I stayed
    there, or more than a quarter of an hour; perhaps because he had not
    yet fairly come out of the torpid state. It appeared to me that for
    a like reason men remain in their present low and primitive
    condition; but if they should feel the influence of the spring of
    springs arousing them, they would of necessity rise to a higher and
    more ethereal life. I had previously seen the snakes in frosty
    mornings in my path with portions of their bodies still numb and
    inflexible, waiting for the sun to thaw them. On the 1st of April
    it rained and melted the ice, and in the early part of the day,
    which was very foggy, I heard a stray goose groping about over the
    pond and cackling as if lost, or like the spirit of the fog.
    So I went on for some days cutting and hewing timber, and also
    studs and rafters, all with my narrow axe, not having many
    communicable or scholar-like thoughts, singing to myself, --

    Men say they know many things;
    But lo! they have taken wings --
    The arts and sciences,
    And a thousand appliances;
    The wind that blows
    Is all that any body knows.

    I hewed the main timbers six inches square, most of the studs on
    two sides only, and the rafters and floor timbers on one side,
    leaving the rest of the bark on, so that they were just as straight
    and much stronger than sawed ones. Each stick was carefully
    mortised or tenoned by its stump, for I had borrowed other tools by
    this time. My days in the woods were not very long ones; yet I
    usually carried my dinner of bread and butter, and read the
    newspaper in which it was wrapped, at noon, sitting amid the green
    pine boughs which I had cut off, and to my bread was imparted some
    of their fragrance, for my hands were covered with a thick coat of
    pitch. Before I had done I was more the friend than the foe of the
    pine tree, though I had cut down some of them, having become better
    acquainted with it. Sometimes a rambler in the wood was attracted
    by the sound of my axe, and we chatted pleasantly over the chips
    which I had made.
    By the middle of April, for I made no haste in my work, but
    rather made the most of it, my house was framed and ready for the
    raising. I had already bought the shanty of James Collins, an
    Irishman who worked on the Fitchburg Railroad, for boards. James
    Collins' shanty was considered an uncommonly fine one. When I
    called to see it he was not at home. I walked about the outside, at
    first unobserved from within, the window was so deep and high. It
    was of small dimensions, with a peaked cottage roof, and not much
    else to be seen, the dirt being raised five feet all around as if it
    were a compost heap. The roof was the soundest part, though a good
    deal warped and made brittle by the sun. Doorsill there was none,
    but a perennial passage for the hens under the door board. Mrs. C.
    came to the door and asked me to view it from the inside. The hens
    were driven in by my approach. It was dark, and had a dirt floor
    for the most part, dank, clammy, and aguish, only here a board and
    there a board which would not bear removal. She lighted a lamp to
    show me the inside of the roof and the walls, and also that the
    board floor extended under the bed, warning me not to step into the
    cellar, a sort of dust hole two feet deep. In her own words, they
    were "good boards overhead, good boards all around, and a good
    window" -- of two whole squares originally, only the cat had passed
    out that way lately. There was a stove, a bed, and a place to sit,
    an infant in the house where it was born, a silk parasol,
    gilt-framed looking-glass, and a patent new coffee-mill nailed to an
    oak sapling, all told. The bargain was soon concluded, for James
    had in the meanwhile returned. I to pay four dollars and
    twenty-five cents tonight, he to vacate at five tomorrow morning,
    selling to nobody else meanwhile: I to take possession at six. It
    were well, he said, to be there early, and anticipate certain
    indistinct but wholly unjust claims on the score of ground rent and
    fuel. This he assured me was the only encumbrance. At six I passed
    him and his family on the road. One large bundle held their all --
    bed, coffee-mill, looking-glass, hens -- all but the cat; she took
    to the woods and became a wild cat, and, as I learned afterward,
    trod in a trap set for woodchucks, and so became a dead cat at last.
    I took down this dwelling the same morning, drawing the nails,
    and removed it to the pond-side by small cartloads, spreading the
    boards on the grass there to bleach and warp back again in the sun.
    One early thrush gave me a note or two as I drove along the woodland
    path. I was informed treacherously by a young Patrick that neighbor
    Seeley, an Irishman, in the intervals of the carting, transferred
    the still tolerable, straight, and drivable nails, staples, and
    spikes to his pocket, and then stood when I came back to pass the
    time of day, and look freshly up, unconcerned, with spring thoughts,
    at the devastation; there being a dearth of work, as he said. He
    was there to represent spectatordom, and help make this seemingly
    insignificant event one with the removal of the gods of Troy.
    I dug my cellar in the side of a hill sloping to the south,
    where a woodchuck had formerly dug his burrow, down through sumach
    and blackberry roots, and the lowest stain of vegetation, six feet
    square by seven deep, to a fine sand where potatoes would not freeze
    in any winter. The sides were left shelving, and not stoned; but
    the sun having never shone on them, the sand still keeps its place.
    It was but two hours' work. I took particular pleasure in this
    breaking of ground, for in almost all latitudes men dig into the
    earth for an equable temperature. Under the most splendid house in
    the city is still to be found the cellar where they store their
    roots as of old, and long after the superstructure has disappeared
    posterity remark its dent in the earth. The house is still but a
    sort of porch at the entrance of a burrow.
    At length, in the beginning of May, with the help of some of my
    acquaintances, rather to improve so good an occasion for
    neighborliness than from any necessity, I set up the frame of my
    house. No man was ever more honored in the character of his raisers
    than I. They are destined, I trust, to assist at the raising of
    loftier structures one day. I began to occupy my house on the 4th
    of July, as soon as it was boarded and roofed, for the boards were
    carefully feather-edged and lapped, so that it was perfectly
    impervious to rain, but before boarding I laid the foundation of a
    chimney at one end, bringing two cartloads of stones up the hill
    from the pond in my arms. I built the chimney after my hoeing in
    the fall, before a fire became necessary for warmth, doing my
    cooking in the meanwhile out of doors on the ground, early in the
    morning: which mode I still think is in some respects more
    convenient and agreeable than the usual one. When it stormed before
    my bread was baked, I fixed a few boards over the fire, and sat
    under them to watch my loaf, and passed some pleasant hours in that
    way. In those days, when my hands were much employed, I read but
    little, but the least scraps of paper which lay on the ground, my
    holder, or tablecloth, afforded me as much entertainment, in fact
    answered the same purpose as the Iliad.
    It would be worth the while to build still more deliberately
    than I did, considering, for instance, what foundation a door, a
    window, a cellar, a garret, have in the nature of man, and perchance
    never raising any superstructure until we found a better reason for
    it than our temporal necessities even. There is some of the same
    fitness in a man's building his own house that there is in a bird's
    building its own nest. Who knows but if men constructed their
    dwellings with their own hands, and provided food for themselves and
    families simply and honestly enough, the poetic faculty would be
    universally developed, as birds universally sing when they are so
    engaged? But alas! we do like cowbirds and cuckoos, which lay their
    eggs in nests which other birds have built, and cheer no traveller
    with their chattering and unmusical notes. Shall we forever resign
    the pleasure of construction to the carpenter? What does
    architecture amount to in the experience of the mass of men? I
    never in all my walks came across a man engaged in so simple and
    natural an occupation as building his house. We belong to the
    community. It is not the tailor alone who is the ninth part of a
    man; it is as much the preacher, and the merchant, and the farmer.
    Where is this division of labor to end? and what object does it
    finally serve? No doubt another may also think for me; but it is
    not therefore desirable that he should do so to the exclusion of my
    thinking for myself.
    True, there are architects so called in this country, and I have
    heard of one at least possessed with the idea of making
    architectural ornaments have a core of truth, a necessity, and hence
    a beauty, as if it were a revelation to him. All very well perhaps
    from his point of view, but only a little better than the common
    dilettantism. A sentimental reformer in architecture, he began at
    the cornice, not at the foundation. It was only how to put a core
    of truth within the ornaments, that every sugarplum, in fact, might
    have an almond or caraway seed in it -- though I hold that almonds
    are most wholesome without the sugar -- and not how the inhabitant,
    the indweller, might build truly within and without, and let the
    ornaments take care of themselves. What reasonable man ever
    supposed that ornaments were something outward and in the skin
    merely -- that the tortoise got his spotted shell, or the shell-fish
    its mother-o'-pearl tints, by such a contract as the inhabitants of
    Broadway their Trinity Church? But a man has no more to do with the
    style of architecture of his house than a tortoise with that of its
    shell: nor need the soldier be so idle as to try to paint the
    precise color of his virtue on his standard. The enemy will find it
    out. He may turn pale when the trial comes. This man seemed to me
    to lean over the cornice, and timidly whisper his half truth to the
    rude occupants who really knew it better than he. What of
    architectural beauty I now see, I know has gradually grown from
    within outward, out of the necessities and character of the
    indweller, who is the only builder -- out of some unconscious
    truthfulness, and nobleness, without ever a thought for the
    appearance and whatever additional beauty of this kind is destined
    to be produced will be preceded by a like unconscious beauty of
    life. The most interesting dwellings in this country, as the
    painter knows, are the most unpretending, humble log huts and
    cottages of the poor commonly; it is the life of the inhabitants
    whose shells they are, and not any peculiarity in their surfaces
    merely, which makes them picturesque; and equally interesting will
    be the citizen's suburban box, when his life shall be as simple and
    as agreeable to the imagination, and there is as little straining
    after effect in the style of his dwelling. A great proportion of
    architectural ornaments are literally hollow, and a September gale
    would strip them off, like borrowed plumes, without injury to the
    substantials. They can do without architecture who have no olives
    nor wines in the cellar. What if an equal ado were made about the
    ornaments of style in literature, and the architects of our bibles
    spent as much time about their cornices as the architects of our
    churches do? So are made the belles-lettres and the beaux-arts and
    their professors. Much it concerns a man, forsooth, how a few
    sticks are slanted over him or under him, and what colors are daubed
    upon his box. It would signify somewhat, if, in any earnest sense,
    he slanted them and daubed it; but the spirit having departed out of
    the tenant, it is of a piece with constructing his own coffin -- the
    architecture of the grave -- and "carpenter" is but another name for
    "coffin-maker." One man says, in his despair or indifference to
    life, take up a handful of the earth at your feet, and paint your
    house that color. Is he thinking of his last and narrow house?
    Toss up a copper for it as well. What an abundance of leisure be
    must have! Why do you take up a handful of dirt? Better paint your
    house your own complexion; let it turn pale or blush for you. An
    enterprise to improve the style of cottage architecture! When you
    have got my ornaments ready, I will wear them.
    Before winter I built a chimney, and shingled the sides of my
    house, which were already impervious to rain, with imperfect and
    sappy shingles made of the first slice of the log, whose edges I was
    obliged to straighten with a plane.
    I have thus a tight shingled and plastered house, ten feet wide
    by fifteen long, and eight-feet posts, with a garret and a closet, a
    large window on each side, two trap doors, one door at the end, and
    a brick fireplace opposite. The exact cost of my house, paying the
    usual price for such materials as I used, but not counting the work,
    all of which was done by myself, was as follows; and I give the
    details because very few are able to tell exactly what their houses
    cost, and fewer still, if any, the separate cost of the various
    materials which compose them:--

    Boards .......................... $ 8.03+, mostly shanty boards.
    Refuse shingles for roof sides ... 4.00
    Laths ............................ 1.25
    Two second-hand windows
    with glass .................... 2.43
    One thousand old brick ........... 4.00
    Two casks of lime ................ 2.40 That was high.
    Hair ............................. 0.31 More than I needed.
    Mantle-tree iron ................. 0.15
    Nails ............................ 3.90
    Hinges and screws ................ 0.14
    Latch ............................ 0.10
    Chalk ............................ 0.01
    Transportation ................... 1.40 I carried a good part
    ------- on my back.
    In all ...................... $28.12+

    These are all the materials, excepting the timber, stones, and
    sand, which I claimed by squatter's right. I have also a small
    woodshed adjoining, made chiefly of the stuff which was left after
    building the house.
    I intend to build me a house which will surpass any on the main
    street in Concord in grandeur and luxury, as soon as it pleases me
    as much and will cost me no more than my present one.
    I thus found that the student who wishes for a shelter can
    obtain one for a lifetime at an expense not greater than the rent
    which he now pays annually. If I seem to boast more than is
    becoming, my excuse is that I brag for humanity rather than for
    myself; and my shortcomings and inconsistencies do not affect the
    truth of my statement. Notwithstanding much cant and hypocrisy --
    chaff which I find it difficult to separate from my wheat, but for
    which I am as sorry as any man -- I will breathe freely and stretch
    myself in this respect, it is such a relief to both the moral and
    physical system; and I am resolved that I will not through humility
    become the devil's attorney. I will endeavor to speak a good word
    for the truth. At Cambridge College the mere rent of a student's
    room, which is only a little larger than my own, is thirty dollars
    each year, though the corporation had the advantage of building
    thirty-two side by side and under one roof, and the occupant suffers
    the inconvenience of many and noisy neighbors, and perhaps a
    residence in the fourth story. I cannot but think that if we had
    more true wisdom in these respects, not only less education would be
    needed, because, forsooth, more would already have been acquired,
    but the pecuniary expense of getting an education would in a great
    measure vanish. Those conveniences which the student requires at
    Cambridge or elsewhere cost him or somebody else ten times as great
    a sacrifice of life as they would with proper management on both
    sides. Those things for which the most money is demanded are never
    the things which the student most wants. Tuition, for instance, is
    an important item in the term bill, while for the far more valuable
    education which he gets by associating with the most cultivated of
    his contemporaries no charge is made. The mode of founding a
    college is, commonly, to get up a subscription of dollars and cents,
    and then, following blindly the principles of a division of labor to
    its extreme -- a principle which should never be followed but with
    circumspection -- to call in a contractor who makes this a subject
    of speculation, and he employs Irishmen or other operatives actually
    to lay the foundations, while the students that are to be are said
    to be fitting themselves for it; and for these oversights successive
    generations have to pay. I think that it would be better than this,
    for the students, or those who desire to be benefited by it, even to
    lay the foundation themselves. The student who secures his coveted
    leisure and retirement by systematically shirking any labor
    necessary to man obtains but an ignoble and unprofitable leisure,
    defrauding himself of the experience which alone can make leisure
    fruitful. "But," says one, "you do not mean that the students
    should go to work with their hands instead of their heads?" I do
    not mean that exactly, but I mean something which he might think a
    good deal like that; I mean that they should not play life, or study
    it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game,
    but earnestly live it from beginning to end. How could youths
    better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of
    living? Methinks this would exercise their minds as much as
    mathematics. If I wished a boy to know something about the arts and
    sciences, for instance, I would not pursue the common course, which
    is merely to send him into the neighborhood of some professor, where
    anything is professed and practised but the art of life; -- to
    survey the world through a telescope or a microscope, and never with
    his natural eye; to study chemistry, and not learn how his bread is
    made, or mechanics, and not learn how it is earned; to discover new
    satellites to Neptune, and not detect the motes in his eyes, or to
    what vagabond he is a satellite himself; or to be devoured by the
    monsters that swarm all around him, while contemplating the monsters
    in a drop of vinegar. Which would have advanced the most at the end
    of a month -- the boy who had made his own jackknife from the ore
    which he had dug and smelted, reading as much as would be necessary
    for this -- or the boy who had attended the lectures on metallurgy
    at the Institute in the meanwhile, and had received a Rodgers'
    penknife from his father? Which would be most likely to cut his
    fingers?... To my astonishment I was informed on leaving college
    that I had studied navigation! -- why, if I had taken one turn down
    the harbor I should have known more about it. Even the poor student
    studies and is taught only political economy, while that economy of
    living which is synonymous with philosophy is not even sincerely
    professed in our colleges. The consequence is, that while he is
    reading Adam Smith, Ricardo, and Say, he runs his father in debt
    As with our colleges, so with a hundred "modern improvements";
    there is an illusion about them; there is not always a positive
    advance. The devil goes on exacting compound interest to the last
    for his early share and numerous succeeding investments in them.
    Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our
    attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an
    unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive
    at; as railroads lead to Boston or New York. We are in great haste
    to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and
    Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate. Either is
    in such a predicament as the man who was earnest to be introduced to
    a distinguished deaf woman, but when he was presented, and one end
    of her ear trumpet was put into his hand, had nothing to say. As if
    the main object were to talk fast and not to talk sensibly. We are
    eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the Old World some
    weeks nearer to the New; but perchance the first news that will leak
    through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that the
    Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough. After all, the man whose
    horse trots a mile in a minute does not carry the most important
    messages; he is not an evangelist, nor does he come round eating
    locusts and wild honey. I doubt if Flying Childers ever carried a
    peck of corn to mill.
    One says to me, "I wonder that you do not lay up money; you love
    to travel; you might take the cars and go to Fitchburg today and see
    the country." But I am wiser than that. I have learned that the
    swiftest traveller is he that goes afoot. I say to my friend,
    Suppose we try who will get there first. The distance is thirty
    miles; the fare ninety cents. That is almost a day's wages. I
    remember when wages were sixty cents a day for laborers on this very
    road. Well, I start now on foot, and get there before night; I have
    travelled at that rate by the week together. You will in the
    meanwhile have earned your fare, and arrive there some time
    tomorrow, or possibly this evening, if you are lucky enough to get a
    job in season. Instead of going to Fitchburg, you will be working
    here the greater part of the day. And so, if the railroad reached
    round the world, I think that I should keep ahead of you; and as for
    seeing the country and getting experience of that kind, I should
    have to cut your acquaintance altogether.
    Such is the universal law, which no man can ever outwit, and
    with regard to the railroad even we may say it is as broad as it is
    long. To make a railroad round the world available to all mankind
    is equivalent to grading the whole surface of the planet. Men have
    an indistinct notion that if they keep up this activity of joint
    stocks and spades long enough all will at length ride somewhere, in
    next to no time, and for nothing; but though a crowd rushes to the
    depot, and the conductor shouts "All aboard!" when the smoke is
    blown away and the vapor condensed, it will be perceived that a few
    are riding, but the rest are run over -- and it will be called, and
    will be, "A melancholy accident." No doubt they can ride at last
    who shall have earned their fare, that is, if they survive so long,
    but they will probably have lost their elasticity and desire to
    travel by that time. This spending of the best part of one's life
    earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the
    least valuable part of it reminds me of the Englishman who went to
    India to make a fortune first, in order that he might return to
    England and live the life of a poet. He should have gone up garret
    at once. "What!" exclaim a million Irishmen starting up from all
    the shanties in the land, "is not this railroad which we have built
    a good thing?" Yes, I answer, comparatively good, that is, you
    might have done worse; but I wish, as you are brothers of mine, that
    you could have spent your time better than digging in this dirt.
    Before I finished my house, wishing to earn ten or twelve
    dollars by some honest and agreeable method, in order to meet my
    unusual expenses, I planted about two acres and a half of light and
    sandy soil near it chiefly with beans, but also a small part with
    potatoes, corn, peas, and turnips. The whole lot contains eleven
    acres, mostly growing up to pines and hickories, and was sold the
    preceding season for eight dollars and eight cents an acre. One
    farmer said that it was "good for nothing but to raise cheeping
    squirrels on." I put no manure whatever on this land, not being the
    owner, but merely a squatter, and not expecting to cultivate so much
    again, and I did not quite hoe it all once. I got out several cords
    of stumps in plowing, which supplied me with fuel for a long time,
    and left small circles of virgin mould, easily distinguishable
    through the summer by the greater luxuriance of the beans there.
    The dead and for the most part unmerchantable wood behind my house,
    and the driftwood from the pond, have supplied the remainder of my
    fuel. I was obliged to hire a team and a man for the plowing,
    though I held the plow myself. My farm outgoes for the first season
    were, for implements, seed, work, etc., $14.72+. The seed corn was
    given me. This never costs anything to speak of, unless you plant
    more than enough. I got twelve bushels of beans, and eighteen
    bushels of potatoes, beside some peas and sweet corn. The yellow
    corn and turnips were too late to come to anything. My whole income
    from the farm was
    $ 23.44
    Deducting the outgoes ............ 14.72+
    There are left .................. $ 8.71+

    beside produce consumed and on hand at the time this estimate was
    made of the value of $4.50 -- the amount on hand much more than
    balancing a little grass which I did not raise. All things
    considered, that is, considering the importance of a man's soul and
    of today, notwithstanding the short time occupied by my experiment,
    nay, partly even because of its transient character, I believe that
    that was doing better than any farmer in Concord did that year.
    The next year I did better still, for I spaded up all the land
    which I required, about a third of an acre, and I learned from the
    experience of both years, not being in the least awed by many
    celebrated works on husbandry, Arthur Young among the rest, that if
    one would live simply and eat only the crop which he raised, and
    raise no more than he ate, and not exchange it for an insufficient
    quantity of more luxurious and expensive things, he would need to
    cultivate only a few rods of ground, and that it would be cheaper to
    spade up that than to use oxen to plow it, and to select a fresh
    spot from time to time than to manure the old, and he could do all
    his necessary farm work as it were with his left hand at odd hours
    in the summer; and thus he would not be tied to an ox, or horse, or
    cow, or pig, as at present. I desire to speak impartially on this
    point, and as one not interested in the success or failure of the
    present economical and social arrangements. I was more independent
    than any farmer in Concord, for I was not anchored to a house or
    farm, but could follow the bent of my genius, which is a very
    crooked one, every moment. Beside being better off than they
    already, if my house had been burned or my crops had failed, I
    should have been nearly as well off as before.
    I am wont to think that men are not so much the keepers of herds
    as herds are the keepers of men, the former are so much the freer.
    Men and oxen exchange work; but if we consider necessary work only,
    the oxen will be seen to have greatly the advantage, their farm is
    so much the larger. Man does some of his part of the exchange work
    in his six weeks of haying, and it is no boy's play. Certainly no
    nation that lived simply in all respects, that is, no nation of
    philosophers, would commit so great a blunder as to use the labor of
    animals. True, there never was and is not likely soon to be a
    nation of philosophers, nor am I certain it is desirable that there
    should be. However, I should never have broken a horse or bull and
    taken him to board for any work he might do for me, for fear I
    should become a horseman or a herdsman merely; and if society seems
    to be the gainer by so doing, are we certain that what is one man's
    gain is not another's loss, and that the stable-boy has equal cause
    with his master to be satisfied? Granted that some public works
    would not have been constructed without this aid, and let man share
    the glory of such with the ox and horse; does it follow that he
    could not have accomplished works yet more worthy of himself in that
    case? When men begin to do, not merely unnecessary or artistic, but
    luxurious and idle work, with their assistance, it is inevitable
    that a few do all the exchange work with the oxen, or, in other
    words, become the slaves of the strongest. Man thus not only works
    for the animal within him, but, for a symbol of this, he works for
    the animal without him. Though we have many substantial houses of
    brick or stone, the prosperity of the farmer is still measured by
    the degree to which the barn overshadows the house. This town is
    said to have the largest houses for oxen, cows, and horses
    hereabouts, and it is not behindhand in its public buildings; but
    there are very few halls for free worship or free speech in this
    county. It should not be by their architecture, but why not even by
    their power of abstract thought, that nations should seek to
    commemorate themselves? How much more admirable the Bhagvat-Geeta
    than all the ruins of the East! Towers and temples are the luxury
    of princes. A simple and independent mind does not toil at the
    bidding of any prince. Genius is not a retainer to any emperor, nor
    is its material silver, or gold, or marble, except to a trifling
    extent. To what end, pray, is so much stone hammered? In Arcadia,
    when I was there, I did not see any hammering stone. Nations are
    possessed with an insane ambition to perpetuate the memory of
    themselves by the amount of hammered stone they leave. What if
    equal pains were taken to smooth and polish their manners? One
    piece of good sense would be more memorable than a monument as high
    as the moon. I love better to see stones in place. The grandeur of
    Thebes was a vulgar grandeur. More sensible is a rod of stone wall
    that bounds an honest man's field than a hundred-gated Thebes that
    has wandered farther from the true end of life. The religion and
    civilization which are barbaric and heathenish build splendid
    temples; but what you might call Christianity does not. Most of the
    stone a nation hammers goes toward its tomb only. It buries itself
    alive. As for the Pyramids, there is nothing to wonder at in them
    so much as the fact that so many men could be found degraded enough
    to spend their lives constructing a tomb for some ambitious booby,
    whom it would have been wiser and manlier to have drowned in the
    Nile, and then given his body to the dogs. I might possibly invent
    some excuse for them and him, but I have no time for it. As for the
    religion and love of art of the builders, it is much the same all
    the world over, whether the building be an Egyptian temple or the
    United States Bank. It costs more than it comes to. The mainspring
    is vanity, assisted by the love of garlic and bread and butter. Mr.
    Balcom, a promising young architect, designs it on the back of his
    Vitruvius, with hard pencil and ruler, and the job is let out to
    Dobson & Sons, stonecutters. When the thirty centuries begin to
    look down on it, mankind begin to look up at it. As for your high
    towers and monuments, there was a crazy fellow once in this town who
    undertook to dig through to China, and he got so far that, as he
    said, he heard the Chinese pots and kettles rattle; but I think that
    I shall not go out of my way to admire the hole which he made. Many
    are concerned about the monuments of the West and the East -- to
    know who built them. For my part, I should like to know who in
    those days did not build them -- who were above such trifling. But
    to proceed with my statistics.
    By surveying, carpentry, and day-labor of various other kinds in
    the village in the meanwhile, for I have as many trades as fingers,
    I had earned $13.34. The expense of food for eight months, namely,
    from July 4th to March 1st, the time when these estimates were made,
    though I lived there more than two years -- not counting potatoes, a
    little green corn, and some peas, which I had raised, nor
    considering the value of what was on hand at the last date -- was

    Rice .................... $ 1.73 1/2
    Molasses ................. 1.73 Cheapest form of the
    Rye meal ................. 1.04 3/4
    Indian meal .............. 0.99 3/4 Cheaper than rye.
    Pork ..................... 0.22
    All experiments which failed:
    Flour .................... 0.88 Costs more than Indian meal,
    both money and trouble.
    Sugar .................... 0.80
    Lard ..................... 0.65
    Apples ................... 0.25
    Dried apple .............. 0.22
    Sweet potatoes ........... 0.10
    One pumpkin .............. 0.06
    One watermelon ........... 0.02
    Salt ..................... 0.03

    Yes, I did eat $8.74, all told; but I should not thus unblushingly
    publish my guilt, if I did not know that most of my readers were
    equally guilty with myself, and that their deeds would look no
    better in print. The next year I sometimes caught a mess of fish
    for my dinner, and once I went so far as to slaughter a woodchuck
    which ravaged my bean-field -- effect his transmigration, as a
    Tartar would say -- and devour him, partly for experiment's sake;
    but though it afforded me a momentary enjoyment, notwithstanding a
    musky flavor, I saw that the longest use would not make that a good
    practice, however it might seem to have your woodchucks ready
    dressed by the village butcher.
    Clothing and some incidental expenses within the same dates,
    though little can be inferred from this item, amounted to

    $ 8.40-3/4
    Oil and some household utensils ........ 2.00

    So that all the pecuniary outgoes, excepting for washing and
    mending, which for the most part were done out of the house, and
    their bills have not yet been received -- and these are all and more
    than all the ways by which money necessarily goes out in this part
    of the world -- were

    House ................................. $ 28.12+
    Farm one year ........................... 14.72+
    Food eight months ....................... 8.74
    Clothing, etc., eight months ............ 8.40-3/4
    Oil, etc., eight months ................. 2.00
    In all ............................ $ 61.99-3/4

    I address myself now to those of my readers who have a living to
    get. And to meet this I have for farm produce sold

    $ 23.44
    Earned by day-labor .................... 13.34
    In all ............................ $ 36.78,

    which subtracted from the sum of the outgoes leaves a balance of
    $25.21 3/4 on the one side -- this being very nearly the means with
    which I started, and the measure of expenses to be incurred -- and
    on the other, beside the leisure and independence and health thus
    secured, a comfortable house for me as long as I choose to occupy
    These statistics, however accidental and therefore uninstructive
    they may appear, as they have a certain completeness, have a certain
    value also. Nothing was given me of which I have not rendered some
    account. It appears from the above estimate, that my food alone
    cost me in money about twenty-seven cents a week. It was, for
    nearly two years after this, rye and Indian meal without yeast,
    potatoes, rice, a very little salt pork, molasses, and salt; and my
    drink, water. It was fit that I should live on rice, mainly, who
    love so well the philosophy of India. To meet the objections of
    some inveterate cavillers, I may as well state, that if I dined out
    occasionally, as I always had done, and I trust shall have
    opportunities to do again, it was frequently to the detriment of my
    domestic arrangements. But the dining out, being, as I have stated,
    a constant element, does not in the least affect a comparative
    statement like this.
    I learned from my two years' experience that it would cost
    incredibly little trouble to obtain one's necessary food, even in
    this latitude; that a man may use as simple a diet as the animals,
    and yet retain health and strength. I have made a satisfactory
    dinner, satisfactory on several accounts, simply off a dish of
    purslane (Portulaca oleracea) which I gathered in my cornfield,
    boiled and salted. I give the Latin on account of the savoriness of
    the trivial name. And pray what more can a reasonable man desire,
    in peaceful times, in ordinary noons, than a sufficient number of
    ears of green sweet corn boiled, with the addition of salt? Even
    the little variety which I used was a yielding to the demands of
    appetite, and not of health. Yet men have come to such a pass that
    they frequently starve, not for want of necessaries, but for want of
    luxuries; and I know a good woman who thinks that her son lost his
    life because he took to drinking water only.
    The reader will perceive that I am treating the subject rather
    from an economic than a dietetic point of view, and he will not
    venture to put my abstemiousness to the test unless he has a
    well-stocked larder.
    Bread I at first made of pure Indian meal and salt, genuine
    hoe-cakes, which I baked before my fire out of doors on a shingle or
    the end of a stick of timber sawed off in building my house; but it
    was wont to get smoked and to have a piny flavor, I tried flour
    also; but have at last found a mixture of rye and Indian meal most
    convenient and agreeable. In cold weather it was no little
    amusement to bake several small loaves of this in succession,
    tending and turning them as carefully as an Egyptian his hatching
    eggs. They were a real cereal fruit which I ripened, and they had
    to my senses a fragrance like that of other noble fruits, which I
    kept in as long as possible by wrapping them in cloths. I made a
    study of the ancient and indispensable art of bread-making,
    consulting such authorities as offered, going back to the primitive
    days and first invention of the unleavened kind, when from the
    wildness of nuts and meats men first reached the mildness and
    refinement of this diet, and travelling gradually down in my studies
    through that accidental souring of the dough which, it is supposed,
    taught the leavening process, and through the various fermentations
    thereafter, till I came to "good, sweet, wholesome bread," the staff
    of life. Leaven, which some deem the soul of bread, the spiritus
    which fills its cellular tissue, which is religiously preserved like
    the vestal fire -- some precious bottleful, I suppose, first brought
    over in the Mayflower, did the business for America, and its
    influence is still rising, swelling, spreading, in cerealian billows
    over the land -- this seed I regularly and faithfully procured from
    the village, till at length one morning I forgot the rules, and
    scalded my yeast; by which accident I discovered that even this was
    not indispensable -- for my discoveries were not by the synthetic
    but analytic process -- and I have gladly omitted it since, though
    most housewives earnestly assured me that safe and wholesome bread
    without yeast might not be, and elderly people prophesied a speedy
    decay of the vital forces. Yet I find it not to be an essential
    ingredient, and after going without it for a year am still in the
    land of the living; and I am glad to escape the trivialness of
    carrying a bottleful in my pocket, which would sometimes pop and
    discharge its contents to my discomfiture. It is simpler and more
    respectable to omit it. Man is an animal who more than any other
    can adapt himself to all climates and circumstances. Neither did I
    put any sal-soda, or other acid or alkali, into my bread. It would
    seem that I made it according to the recipe which Marcus Porcius
    Cato gave about two centuries before Christ. "Panem depsticium sic
    facito. Manus mortariumque bene lavato. Farinam in mortarium
    indito, aquae paulatim addito, subigitoque pulchre. Ubi bene
    subegeris, defingito, coquitoque sub testu." Which I take to mean,
    -- "Make kneaded bread thus. Wash your hands and trough well. Put
    the meal into the trough, add water gradually, and knead it
    thoroughly. When you have kneaded it well, mould it, and bake it
    under a cover," that is, in a baking kettle. Not a word about
    leaven. But I did not always use this staff of life. At one time,
    owing to the emptiness of my purse, I saw none of it for more than a
    Every New Englander might easily raise all his own breadstuffs
    in this land of rye and Indian corn, and not depend on distant and
    fluctuating markets for them. Yet so far are we from simplicity and
    independence that, in Concord, fresh and sweet meal is rarely sold
    in the shops, and hominy and corn in a still coarser form are hardly
    used by any. For the most part the farmer gives to his cattle and
    hogs the grain of his own producing, and buys flour, which is at
    least no more wholesome, at a greater cost, at the store. I saw
    that I could easily raise my bushel or two of rye and Indian corn,
    for the former will grow on the poorest land, and the latter does
    not require the best, and grind them in a hand-mill, and so do
    without rice and pork; and if I must have some concentrated sweet, I
    found by experiment that I could make a very good molasses either of
    pumpkins or beets, and I knew that I needed only to set out a few
    maples to obtain it more easily still, and while these were growing
    I could use various substitutes beside those which I have named.
    "For," as the Forefathers sang,--

    "we can make liquor to sweeten our lips
    Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips."

    Finally, as for salt, that grossest of groceries, to obtain this
    might be a fit occasion for a visit to the seashore, or, if I did
    without it altogether, I should probably drink the less water. I do
    not learn that the Indians ever troubled themselves to go after it.
    Thus I could avoid all trade and barter, so far as my food was
    concerned, and having a shelter already, it would only remain to get
    clothing and fuel. The pantaloons which I now wear were woven in a
    farmer's family -- thank Heaven there is so much virtue still in
    man; for I think the fall from the farmer to the operative as great
    and memorable as that from the man to the farmer; -- and in a new
    country, fuel is an encumbrance. As for a habitat, if I were not
    permitted still to squat, I might purchase one acre at the same
    price for which the land I cultivated was sold -- namely, eight
    dollars and eight cents. But as it was, I considered that I
    enhanced the value of the land by squatting on it.
    There is a certain class of unbelievers who sometimes ask me
    such questions as, if I think that I can live on vegetable food
    alone; and to strike at the root of the matter at once -- for the
    root is faith -- I am accustomed to answer such, that I can live on
    board nails. If they cannot understand that, they cannot understand
    much that I have to say. For my part, I am glad to bear of
    experiments of this kind being tried; as that a young man tried for
    a fortnight to live on hard, raw corn on the ear, using his teeth
    for all mortar. The squirrel tribe tried the same and succeeded.
    The human race is interested in these experiments, though a few old
    women who are incapacitated for them, or who own their thirds in
    mills, may be alarmed.
    My furniture, part of which I made myself -- and the rest cost
    me nothing of which I have not rendered an account -- consisted of a
    bed, a table, a desk, three chairs, a looking-glass three inches in
    diameter, a pair of tongs and andirons, a kettle, a skillet, and a
    frying-pan, a dipper, a wash-bowl, two knives and forks, three
    plates, one cup, one spoon, a jug for oil, a jug for molasses, and a
    japanned lamp. None is so poor that he need sit on a pumpkin. That
    is shiftlessness. There is a plenty of such chairs as I like best
    in the village garrets to be had for taking them away. Furniture!
    Thank God, I can sit and I can stand without the aid of a furniture
    warehouse. What man but a philosopher would not be ashamed to see
    his furniture packed in a cart and going up country exposed to the
    light of heaven and the eyes of men, a beggarly account of empty
    boxes? That is Spaulding's furniture. I could never tell from
    inspecting such a load whether it belonged to a so-called rich man
    or a poor one; the owner always seemed poverty-stricken. Indeed,
    the more you have of such things the poorer you are. Each load
    looks as if it contained the contents of a dozen shanties; and if
    one shanty is poor, this is a dozen times as poor. Pray, for what
    do we move ever but to get rid of our furniture, our exuvioe: at
    last to go from this world to another newly furnished, and leave
    this to be burned? It is the same as if all these traps were
    buckled to a man's belt, and he could not move over the rough
    country where our lines are cast without dragging them -- dragging
    his trap. He was a lucky fox that left his tail in the trap. The
    muskrat will gnaw his third leg off to be free. No wonder man has
    lost his elasticity. How often he is at a dead set! "Sir, if I may
    be so bold, what do you mean by a dead set?" If you are a seer,
    whenever you meet a man you will see all that he owns, ay, and much
    that he pretends to disown, behind him, even to his kitchen
    furniture and all the trumpery which he saves and will not burn, and
    he will appear to be harnessed to it and making what headway he can.
    I think that the man is at a dead set who has got through a
    knot-hole or gateway where his sledge load of furniture cannot
    follow him. I cannot but feel compassion when I hear some trig,
    compact-looking man, seemingly free, all girded and ready, speak of
    his "furniture," as whether it is insured or not. "But what shall I
    do with my furniture?" -- My gay butterfly is entangled in a
    spider's web then. Even those who seem for a long while not to have
    any, if you inquire more narrowly you will find have some stored in
    somebody's barn. I look upon England today as an old gentleman who
    is travelling with a great deal of baggage, trumpery which has
    accumulated from long housekeeping, which he has not the courage to
    burn; great trunk, little trunk, bandbox, and bundle. Throw away
    the first three at least. It would surpass the powers of a well man
    nowadays to take up his bed and walk, and I should certainly advise
    a sick one to lay down his bed and run. When I have met an
    immigrant tottering under a bundle which contained his all --
    looking like an enormous wen which had grown out of the nape of his
    neck -- I have pitied him, not because that was his all, but because
    he had all that to carry. If I have got to drag my trap, I will
    take care that it be a light one and do not nip me in a vital part.
    But perchance it would be wisest never to put one's paw into it.
    I would observe, by the way, that it costs me nothing for
    curtains, for I have no gazers to shut out but the sun and moon, and
    I am willing that they should look in. The moon will not sour milk
    nor taint meat of mine, nor will the sun injure my furniture or fade
    my carpet; and if he is sometimes too warm a friend, I find it still
    better economy to retreat behind some curtain which nature has
    provided, than to add a single item to the details of housekeeping.
    A lady once offered me a mat, but as I had no room to spare within
    the house, nor time to spare within or without to shake it, I
    declined it, preferring to wipe my feet on the sod before my door.
    It is best to avoid the beginnings of evil.
    Not long since I was present at the auction of a deacon's
    effects, for his life had not been ineffectual:--

    "The evil that men do lives after them."

    As usual, a great proportion was trumpery which had begun to
    accumulate in his father's day. Among the rest was a dried
    tapeworm. And now, after lying half a century in his garret and
    other dust holes, these things were not burned; instead of a
    bonfire, or purifying destruction of them, there was an auction, or
    increasing of them. The neighbors eagerly collected to view them,
    bought them all, and carefully transported them to their garrets and
    dust holes, to lie there till their estates are settled, when they
    will start again. When a man dies he kicks the dust.
    The customs of some savage nations might, perchance, be
    profitably imitated by us, for they at least go through the
    semblance of casting their slough annually; they have the idea of
    the thing, whether they have the reality or not. Would it not be
    well if we were to celebrate such a "busk," or "feast of first
    fruits," as Bartram describes to have been the custom of the
    Mucclasse Indians? "When a town celebrates the busk," says he,
    "having previously provided themselves with new clothes, new pots,
    pans, and other household utensils and furniture, they collect all
    their worn out clothes and other despicable things, sweep and
    cleanse their houses, squares, and the whole town of their filth,
    which with all the remaining grain and other old provisions they
    cast together into one common heap, and consume it with fire. After
    having taken medicine, and fasted for three days, all the fire in
    the town is extinguished. During this fast they abstain from the
    gratification of every appetite and passion whatever. A general
    amnesty is proclaimed; all malefactors may return to their town."
    "On the fourth morning, the high priest, by rubbing dry wood
    together, produces new fire in the public square, from whence every
    habitation in the town is supplied with the new and pure flame."
    They then feast on the new corn and fruits, and dance and sing
    for three days, "and the four following days they receive visits and
    rejoice with their friends from neighboring towns who have in like
    manner purified and prepared themselves."
    The Mexicans also practised a similar purification at the end of
    every fifty-two years, in the belief that it was time for the world
    to come to an end.
    I have scarcely heard of a truer sacrament, that is, as the
    dictionary defines it, "outward and visible sign of an inward and
    spiritual grace," than this, and I have no doubt that they were
    originally inspired directly from Heaven to do thus, though they
    have no Biblical record of the revelation.
    For more than five years I maintained myself thus solely by the
    labor of my hands, and I found that, by working about six weeks in a
    year, I could meet all the expenses of living. The whole of my
    winters, as well as most of my summers, I had free and clear for
    study. I have thoroughly tried school-keeping, and found that my
    expenses were in proportion, or rather out of proportion, to my
    income, for I was obliged to dress and train, not to say think and
    believe, accordingly, and I lost my time into the bargain. As I did
    not teach for the good of my fellow-men, but simply for a
    livelihood, this was a failure. I have tried trade but I found that
    it would take ten years to get under way in that, and that then I
    should probably be on my way to the devil. I was actually afraid
    that I might by that time be doing what is called a good business.
    When formerly I was looking about to see what I could do for a
    living, some sad experience in conforming to the wishes of friends
    being fresh in my mind to tax my ingenuity, I thought often and
    seriously of picking huckleberries; that surely I could do, and its
    small profits might suffice -- for my greatest skill has been to
    want but little -- so little capital it required, so little
    distraction from my wonted moods, I foolishly thought. While my
    acquaintances went unhesitatingly into trade or the professions, I
    contemplated this occupation as most like theirs; ranging the hills
    all summer to pick the berries which came in my way, and thereafter
    carelessly dispose of them; so, to keep the flocks of Admetus. I
    also dreamed that I might gather the wild herbs, or carry evergreens
    to such villagers as loved to be reminded of the woods, even to the
    city, by hay-cart loads. But I have since learned that trade curses
    everything it handles; and though you trade in messages from heaven,
    the whole curse of trade attaches to the business.
    As I preferred some things to others, and especially valued my
    freedom, as I could fare hard and yet succeed well, I did not wish
    to spend my time in earning rich carpets or other fine furniture, or
    delicate cookery, or a house in the Grecian or the Gothic style just
    yet. If there are any to whom it is no interruption to acquire
    these things, and who know how to use them when acquired, I
    relinquish to them the pursuit. Some are "industrious," and appear
    to love labor for its own sake, or perhaps because it keeps them out
    of worse mischief; to such I have at present nothing to say. Those
    who would not know what to do with more leisure than they now enjoy,
    I might advise to work twice as hard as they do -- work till they
    pay for themselves, and get their free papers. For myself I found
    that the occupation of a day-laborer was the most independent of
    any, especially as it required only thirty or forty days in a year
    to support one. The laborer's day ends with the going down of the
    sun, and he is then free to devote himself to his chosen pursuit,
    independent of his labor; but his employer, who speculates from
    month to month, has no respite from one end of the year to the
    In short, I am convinced, both by faith and experience, that to
    maintain one's self on this earth is not a hardship but a pastime,
    if we will live simply and wisely; as the pursuits of the simpler
    nations are still the sports of the more artificial. It is not
    necessary that a man should earn his living by the sweat of his
    brow, unless he sweats easier than I do.
    One young man of my acquaintance, who has inherited some acres,
    told me that he thought he should live as I did, if he had the
    means. I would not have any one adopt my mode of living on any
    account; for, beside that before he has fairly learned it I may have
    found out another for myself, I desire that there may be as many
    different persons in the world as possible; but I would have each
    one be very careful to find out and pursue his own way, and not his
    father's or his mother's or his neighbor's instead. The youth may
    build or plant or sail, only let him not be hindered from doing that
    which he tells me he would like to do. It is by a mathematical
    point only that we are wise, as the sailor or the fugitive slave
    keeps the polestar in his eye; but that is sufficient guidance for
    all our life. We may not arrive at our port within a calculable
    period, but we would preserve the true course.
    Undoubtedly, in this case, what is true for one is truer still
    for a thousand, as a large house is not proportionally more
    expensive than a small one, since one roof may cover, one cellar
    underlie, and one wall separate several apartments. But for my
    part, I preferred the solitary dwelling. Moreover, it will commonly
    be cheaper to build the whole yourself than to convince another of
    the advantage of the common wall; and when you have done this, the
    common partition, to be much cheaper, must be a thin one, and that
    other may prove a bad neighbor, and also not keep his side in
    repair. The only co-operation which is commonly possible is
    exceedingly partial and superficial; and what little true
    co-operation there is, is as if it were not, being a harmony
    inaudible to men. If a man has faith, he will co-operate with equal
    faith everywhere; if he has not faith, he will continue to live like
    the rest of the world, whatever company he is joined to. To
    co-operate in the highest as well as the lowest sense, means to get
    our living together. I heard it proposed lately that two young men
    should travel together over the world, the one without money,
    earning his means as he went, before the mast and behind the plow,
    the other carrying a bill of exchange in his pocket. It was easy to
    see that they could not long be companions or co-operate, since one
    would not operate at all. They would part at the first interesting
    crisis in their adventures. Above all, as I have implied, the man
    who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must
    wait till that other is ready, and it may be a long time before they
    get off.
    But all this is very selfish, I have heard some of my townsmen
    say. I confess that I have hitherto indulged very little in
    philanthropic enterprises. I have made some sacrifices to a sense
    of duty, and among others have sacrificed this pleasure also. There
    are those who have used all their arts to persuade me to undertake
    the support of some poor family in the town; and if I had nothing to
    do -- for the devil finds employment for the idle -- I might try my
    hand at some such pastime as that. However, when I have thought to
    indulge myself in this respect, and lay their Heaven under an
    obligation by maintaining certain poor persons in all respects as
    comfortably as I maintain myself, and have even ventured so far as
    to make them the offer, they have one and all unhesitatingly
    preferred to remain poor. While my townsmen and women are devoted
    in so many ways to the good of their fellows, I trust that one at
    least may be spared to other and less humane pursuits. You must
    have a genius for charity as well as for anything else. As for
    Doing-good, that is one of the professions which are full.
    Moreover, I have tried it fairly, and, strange as it may seem, am
    satisfied that it does not agree with my constitution. Probably I
    should not consciously and deliberately forsake my particular
    calling to do the good which society demands of me, to save the
    universe from annihilation; and I believe that a like but infinitely
    greater steadfastness elsewhere is all that now preserves it. But I
    would not stand between any man and his genius; and to him who does
    this work, which I decline, with his whole heart and soul and life,
    I would say, Persevere, even if the world call it doing evil, as it
    is most likely they will.
    I am far from supposing that my case is a peculiar one; no doubt
    many of my readers would make a similar defence. At doing something
    -- I will not engage that my neighbors shall pronounce it good -- I
    do not hesitate to say that I should be a capital fellow to hire;
    but what that is, it is for my employer to find out. What good I
    do, in the common sense of that word, must be aside from my main
    path, and for the most part wholly unintended. Men say,
    practically, Begin where you are and such as you are, without aiming
    mainly to become of more worth, and with kindness aforethought go
    about doing good. If I were to preach at all in this strain, I
    should say rather, Set about being good. As if the sun should stop
    when he had kindled his fires up to the splendor of a moon or a star
    of the sixth magnitude, and go about like a Robin Goodfellow,
    peeping in at every cottage window, inspiring lunatics, and tainting
    meats, and making darkness visible, instead of steadily increasing
    his genial heat and beneficence till he is of such brightness that
    no mortal can look him in the face, and then, and in the meanwhile
    too, going about the world in his own orbit, doing it good, or
    rather, as a truer philosophy has discovered, the world going about
    him getting good. When Phaeton, wishing to prove his heavenly birth
    by his beneficence, had the sun's chariot but one day, and drove out
    of the beaten track, he burned several blocks of houses in the lower
    streets of heaven, and scorched the surface of the earth, and dried
    up every spring, and made the great desert of Sahara, till at length
    Jupiter hurled him headlong to the earth with a thunderbolt, and the
    sun, through grief at his death, did not shine for a year.
    There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness
    tainted. It is human, it is divine, carrion. If I knew for a
    certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious
    design of doing me good, I should run for my life, as from that dry
    and parching wind of the African deserts called the simoom, which
    fills the mouth and nose and ears and eyes with dust till you are
    suffocated, for fear that I should get some of his good done to me
    -- some of its virus mingled with my blood. No -- in this case I
    would rather suffer evil the natural way. A man is not a good man
    to me because he will feed me if I should be starving, or warm me if
    I should be freezing, or pull me out of a ditch if I should ever
    fall into one. I can find you a Newfoundland dog that will do as
    much. Philanthropy is not love for one's fellow-man in the broadest
    sense. Howard was no doubt an exceedingly kind and worthy man in
    his way, and has his reward; but, comparatively speaking, what are a
    hundred Howards to us, if their philanthropy do not help us in our
    best estate, when we are most worthy to be helped? I never heard of
    a philanthropic meeting in which it was sincerely proposed to do any
    good to me, or the like of me.
    The Jesuits were quite balked by those Indians who, being burned
    at the stake, suggested new modes of torture to their tormentors.
    Being superior to physical suffering, it sometimes chanced that they
    were superior to any consolation which the missionaries could offer;
    and the law to do as you would be done by fell with less
    persuasiveness on the ears of those who, for their part, did not
    care how they were done by, who loved their enemies after a new
    fashion, and came very near freely forgiving them all they did.
    Be sure that you give the poor the aid they most need, though it
    be your example which leaves them far behind. If you give money,
    spend yourself with it, and do not merely abandon it to them. We
    make curious mistakes sometimes. Often the poor man is not so cold
    and hungry as he is dirty and ragged and gross. It is partly his
    taste, and not merely his misfortune. If you give him money, he
    will perhaps buy more rags with it. I was wont to pity the clumsy
    Irish laborers who cut ice on the pond, in such mean and ragged
    clothes, while I shivered in my more tidy and somewhat more
    fashionable garments, till, one bitter cold day, one who had slipped
    into the water came to my house to warm him, and I saw him strip off
    three pairs of pants and two pairs of stockings ere he got down to
    the skin, though they were dirty and ragged enough, it is true, and
    that he could afford to refuse the extra garments which I offered
    him, he had so many intra ones. This ducking was the very thing he
    needed. Then I began to pity myself, and I saw that it would be a
    greater charity to bestow on me a flannel shirt than a whole
    slop-shop on him. There are a thousand hacking at the branches of
    evil to one who is striking at the root, and it may be that he who
    bestows the largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing
    the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which he strives
    in vain to relieve. It is the pious slave-breeder devoting the
    proceeds of every tenth slave to buy a Sunday's liberty for the
    rest. Some show their kindness to the poor by employing them in
    their kitchens. Would they not be kinder if they employed
    themselves there? You boast of spending a tenth part of your income
    in charity; maybe you should spend the nine tenths so, and done with
    it. Society recovers only a tenth part of the property then. Is
    this owing to the generosity of him in whose possession it is found,
    or to the remissness of the officers of justice?
    Philanthropy is almost the only virtue which is sufficiently
    appreciated by mankind. Nay, it is greatly overrated; and it is our
    selfishness which overrates it. A robust poor man, one sunny day
    here in Concord, praised a fellow-townsman to me, because, as he
    said, he was kind to the poor; meaning himself. The kind uncles and
    aunts of the race are more esteemed than its true spiritual fathers
    and mothers. I once heard a reverend lecturer on England, a man of
    learning and intelligence, after enumerating her scientific,
    literary, and political worthies, Shakespeare, Bacon, Cromwell,
    Milton, Newton, and others, speak next of her Christian heroes,
    whom, as if his profession required it of him, he elevated to a
    place far above all the rest, as the greatest of the great. They
    were Penn, Howard, and Mrs. Fry. Every one must feel the falsehood
    and cant of this. The last were not England's best men and women;
    only, perhaps, her best philanthropists.
    I would not subtract anything from the praise that is due to
    philanthropy, but merely demand justice for all who by their lives
    and works are a blessing to mankind. I do not value chiefly a man's
    uprightness and benevolence, which are, as it were, his stem and
    leaves. Those plants of whose greenness withered we make herb tea
    for the sick serve but a humble use, and are most employed by
    quacks. I want the flower and fruit of a man; that some fragrance
    be wafted over from him to me, and some ripeness flavor our
    intercourse. His goodness must not be a partial and transitory act,
    but a constant superfluity, which costs him nothing and of which he
    is unconscious. This is a charity that hides a multitude of sins.
    The philanthropist too often surrounds mankind with the remembrance
    of his own castoff griefs as an atmosphere, and calls it sympathy.
    We should impart our courage, and not our despair, our health and
    ease, and not our disease, and take care that this does not spread
    by contagion. From what southern plains comes up the voice of
    wailing? Under what latitudes reside the heathen to whom we would
    send light? Who is that intemperate and brutal man whom we would
    redeem? If anything ail a man, so that he does not perform his
    functions, if he have a pain in his bowels even -- for that is the
    seat of sympathy -- he forthwith sets about reforming -- the world.
    Being a microcosm himself, he discovers -- and it is a true
    discovery, and he is the man to make it -- that the world has been
    eating green apples; to his eyes, in fact, the globe itself is a
    great green apple, which there is danger awful to think of that the
    children of men will nibble before it is ripe; and straightway his
    drastic philanthropy seeks out the Esquimau and the Patagonian, and
    embraces the populous Indian and Chinese villages; and thus, by a
    few years of philanthropic activity, the powers in the meanwhile
    using him for their own ends, no doubt, he cures himself of his
    dyspepsia, the globe acquires a faint blush on one or both of its
    cheeks, as if it were beginning to be ripe, and life loses its
    crudity and is once more sweet and wholesome to live. I never
    dreamed of any enormity greater than I have committed. I never
    knew, and never shall know, a worse man than myself.
    I believe that what so saddens the reformer is not his sympathy
    with his fellows in distress, but, though he be the holiest son of
    God, is his private ail. Let this be righted, let the spring come
    to him, the morning rise over his couch, and he will forsake his
    generous companions without apology. My excuse for not lecturing
    against the use of tobacco is, that I never chewed it, that is a
    penalty which reformed tobacco-chewers have to pay; though there are
    things enough I have chewed which I could lecture against. If you
    should ever be betrayed into any of these philanthropies, do not let
    your left hand know what your right hand does, for it is not worth
    knowing. Rescue the drowning and tie your shoestrings. Take your
    time, and set about some free labor.
    Our manners have been corrupted by communication with the
    saints. Our hymn-books resound with a melodious cursing of God and
    enduring Him forever. One would say that even the prophets and
    redeemers had rather consoled the fears than confirmed the hopes of
    man. There is nowhere recorded a simple and irrepressible
    satisfaction with the gift of life, any memorable praise of God.
    All health and success does me good, however far off and withdrawn
    it may appear; all disease and failure helps to make me sad and does
    me evil, however much sympathy it may have with me or I with it.
    If, then, we would indeed restore mankind by truly Indian, botanic,
    magnetic, or natural means, let us first be as simple and well as
    Nature ourselves, dispel the clouds which hang over our own brows,
    and take up a little life into our pores. Do not stay to be an
    overseer of the poor, but endeavor to become one of the worthies of
    the world.
    I read in the Gulistan, or Flower Garden, of Sheik Sadi of
    Shiraz, that "they asked a wise man, saying: Of the many celebrated
    trees which the Most High God has created lofty and umbrageous, they
    call none azad, or free, excepting the cypress, which bears no
    fruit; what mystery is there in this? He replied, Each has its
    appropriate produce, and appointed season, during the continuance of
    which it is fresh and blooming, and during their absence dry and
    withered; to neither of which states is the cypress exposed, being
    always flourishing; and of this nature are the azads, or religious
    independents. -- Fix not thy heart on that which is transitory; for
    the Dijlah, or Tigris, will continue to flow through Bagdad after
    the race of caliphs is extinct: if thy hand has plenty, be liberal
    as the date tree; but if it affords nothing to give away, be an
    azad, or free man, like the cypress."

    The Pretensions of Poverty
    Thou dost presume too much, poor needy wretch,
    To claim a station in the firmament
    Because thy humble cottage, or thy tub,
    Nurses some lazy or pedantic virtue
    In the cheap sunshine or by shady springs,
    With roots and pot-herbs; where thy right hand,
    Tearing those humane passions from the mind,
    Upon whose stocks fair blooming virtues flourish,
    Degradeth nature, and benumbeth sense,
    And, Gorgon-like, turns active men to stone.
    We not require the dull society
    Of your necessitated temperance,
    Or that unnatural stupidity
    That knows nor joy nor sorrow; nor your forc'd
    Falsely exalted passive fortitude
    Above the active. This low abject brood,
    That fix their seats in mediocrity,
    Become your servile minds; but we advance
    Such virtues only as admit excess,
    Brave, bounteous acts, regal magnificence,
    All-seeing prudence, magnanimity
    That knows no bound, and that heroic virtue
    For which antiquity hath left no name,
    But patterns only, such as Hercules,
    Achilles, Theseus. Back to thy loath'd cell;
    And when thou seest the new enlightened sphere,
    Study to know but what those worthies were.
    T. CAREW
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